Home > Mom's Life > Family Relationships > Pets > Dog Breeds > Dog-Assisted Therapy
|

Dog-Assisted Therapy

If you and your dog both like people and enjoy volunteering, you might enjoy dog-assisted therapy work. Therapy dogs come from all walks of canine life, from the tiny to the tall, from stock dogs and hunting dogs to conformation champions to simply cherished companions. Whatever their other roles in life, therapy dogs share several essential qualities—they like people and are friendly, they're reliable in unusual environments, they take things in stride, and they enjoy being petted, smooched, hugged, and talked to by all sorts of people.

What exactly does a therapy dog do? Sometimes he just sits or lies quietly, being petted and listening to story after story about a nursing home resident's former dogs. Sometimes he visits elementary schools to help teach children about humane care of animals. He may work with disabled children. He may volunteer at a hospital, where he might visit patients in pediatrics, oncology, and other wards, including hospice centers. At least one hospital has found that having a therapy dog in the emergency room has a calming effect on patients and on doctors, nurses, and staff members working in the high-stress environment.

Therapy dogs should not be confused with service dogs, who work as guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, seizure-alert dogs, general assistance dogs, and so on. Service dogs go through intensive training in order to perform their jobs. Therapy dogs don't require intensive training, but they must have basic obedience training and be reliable. They can't jump on people or onto beds uninvited, or ever put their mouths on people. Most therapy dogs also know commands such as Paws On (put your paws up on a bed or chair) and Paws Off (put your paws back on the floor). Some also know a few people-pleasing tricks.

Several organizations test and certify therapy dogs. You can make therapy visits to many places without being certified, but there are advantages to making your dog “official.” Certification gives your dog and you more credibility and some independent assurance that your dog has the temperament and training needed to make him a good therapy dog. In addition, most certifying organizations provide insurance to cover any accidental damage your dog might cause during official therapy visits. Each organization has rules designed to make therapy visits safe, comfortable, and enjoyable for everyone—residents, patients, staff, and the volunteer handler and dog.

Many dog-and-handler teams work alone or with one or two other teams. Recreation directors in nursing homes and other facilities are often delighted to make space on the calendar for therapy dog visits, so it's usually fairly easy to find a “workplace” close to home. If you'd rather not go it alone, look for a local therapy group. Many obedience and kennel clubs have therapy groups that visit nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. Some hospitals and nursing homes have their own programs and usually welcome new volunteers.

More on: Pets

|

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog © 2003 by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

thanksgiving crafts & recipes

Make this Turkey
Day fun for the
whole family with
these essentials.

GO

highlights

3 Fun Thanksgiving Games for Kids
Looking for some great Thanksgiving games to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Feathers on the Turkey game, Pin the Hat on the Pilgrim game, and Thanksgiving Parade Bingo game for loads of laughs this Turkey Day!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!