Therapy dogs provide comfort and reassurance for many people in locales such as nursing homes, schools and hospitals. The un-sung heroes of service dogs, however, are the dogs’ owners.
These dogs provide love and calmness to children, but it is the owners who are the ones who volunteer to get their pets involved. The pair creates a team that works together to improve other people’s lives. more emotional support animal registration
Examples of therapy dogs’ and their owners’ work include visits to a senior in an assisted living program or helping a child who is struggling with learning to read.
And, yes, family pets other than dogs are therapy pets, for example, animals like cats and rabbits and horses, etc.
Therapy dogs should not be confused with service dogs that are trained to assist someone with whom they live. Therapy dogs visit along with their volunteer parents as a team.
So how do you get your pet involved in helping others?
Becoming a Therapy Dog
There are many pet organizations that help connect certified therapy dogs with those who will benefit most. Many times, there is a long waiting list for these dogs and their volunteer owners at these organizations.
Almost any friendly dog is a great candidate to become one. It’s not like some breeds or sizes of dogs are better than others.
Some of the outward signs of a dog with the proper disposition to become a therapy dog include:
· Likes people
· Wiggles tail when meets people
· Enthusiastically greets visitors
Of course, there are a few other requirements such as knowing basic commands and demonstrating tolerance of a leash. But a dog’s temperament is probably the most important aspect of a good therapy dog.
In fact, Love on a Leash, a foundation for pet-provided therapy, provides a certification form that includes the following note for the evaluator: “Note: Any dog that shows aggression toward a person or another dog is automatically disqualified.”
A number of professionals can act as the evaluator and can fill out the certification form:
· Any professional animal behaviorists
· Dog Trainers
· Other dog professionals like boarding/kennel businesses
The evaluator’s job is to examine your dog and provide a yes or no answer to questions about the dog and the handler.
The Dog’s Evaluation
Sensitivity to sound
Shyness or fearfulness
Ability to pet its head, feet, ears and tail
Healthy & well-groomed
Controlled around people
Maintains composure while a stranger erratically approaches
Obvious biting or mouthing or aggression
Follow commands such as sit, lie down, heel, and come all while on a leash
Ability to sit or stay for two minutes while the owner holds leash
The Handler’s Evaluation
Comfortable with the “therapy team” visiting a relative.
Handler’s ability to maintain control over dog when greeting a friendly stranger
Since an evaluator must attest to the above items, it is important to train your dog for these commands and abilities. In addition, commands like “leave it” and “paws up” are also helpful for therapy dogs.
Whether you train your dog yourself or you have a professional help you, the most important aspect is your ability to control your dog even under stressful conditions. Places you will take your therapy-trained dog like hospitals and schools can become suddenly very loud at times.