Robot Therapy Dogs: Are They a Substitute for Actual Dogs?

Posted by Christy Caplan
Robot Dog
Kickstarter/TomBot

About 1 in 5 people worldwide suffer from apathy, depression, anxiety, loneliness, frustration, aggression, hallucinations or dementia. My grandmother had dementia and one of the behavior changes we noticed was forgetfulness and frustration.

Seniors are typically given medication to help manage their dementia and studies show that when a senior can form an attachment with stuffed animals and human baby dolls they actually need fewer drugs! With that in mind, a Kickstarter campaign brings seniors a realistic companion animal.

Meet Jennie, the Tombot puppy's newest design is a prototype robotic dog.

The synthetic fur for the robot-dogs was created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, which produces "The Muppets." She barks and wags her tail! 

Oprah Magazine tells us, 

"Tombot Puppy CEO Tom Stevens just unveiled his latest creation, a robo-dog named Jennie. Jennie is a golden Labrador retriever dog that was created to help therapy patients, seniors, people diagnosed with dementia, and animal lovers who are unable to take care of a real pet." 

We already know that therapy dogs help with loneliness.

Robot Therapy Dog

Meet “Jennie,” a robot therapy dog designed to help patients who are unable to care for a real pet. https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Posted by CBS Philly on Friday, April 26, 2019

According to a 2012 report in Frontiers in Psychology on human-animal interactions,

"Among the well-documented effects of HAI in humans of different ages, with and without special medical, or mental health conditions are benefits for: social attention, social behavior, interpersonal interactions, and mood; stress-related parameters such as cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure; self-reported fear and anxiety; and mental and physical health, especially cardiovascular diseases. "

Do you think a robot therapy dog is an answer for dementia patients? If you have a relative with Alzheimer's disease having a therapy pet visit is always well received. So perhaps these robotic pets are an ok replacement for real dogs in this case and I can see these as wonderful tools for seniors at nursing homes.

The amount of physical contact seniors have with these robotic dogs will bring comfort to them. What a great solution to help patients that benefit from emotional support animals but cannot care for them!

The robots go on the market in 2020 for about $450. 

Would you consider purchasing a "Jennie" for someone you know with dementia? Please leave us a comment below! 

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Robot Therapy Dogs: Are They a Substitute for Actual Dogs?