ALL ABOUT THERAPY DOGS
WHAT IS A THERAPY DOG?
A therapy dog is born to provide love and smiles to people who need it. As they grow up, they are trained with special techniques to do therapy work.
Therapy dogs are different from service dogs. Interactions with service dogs are not allowed, while interactions with therapy dogs are encouraged.
A therapy dog has a stable temperament and a friendly, easy-going personality.
Training takes place to prepare therapy dogs for their future activities and certification is obtained by passing a recognized organizations test.
THE BENEFITS OF THERAPY DOGS
The benefits of therapy dogs on both physical and mental health are well documented. The simple act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response.
For mental health, therapy dogs can:
- provide comfort.
- reduce loneliness.
- provide an escape or happy distraction.
- act as catalysts in the therapy process.
Similarly, but for physical health, therapy dogs can:
- lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
- reduce the amount of medications some people need.
- slow breathing in those who are anxious.
- release many hormones such as Phenylethylamine (which has the same effect as chocolate).
- diminish overall physical pain.
help those exercising relax more during the process.
HOW ARE THERAPY DOGS TRAINED?
Therapy dogs are born to become therapy dogs. In addition, they need technique training. Not all dogs can become therapy dogs. The dog has to love people and be able to get along with other dogs .
There are some certain basic requirements that must be met to be considered for entering a program:
- The dog must be calm, friendly and affectionate.
- The American Kennel Club, AKC, recognizes a handful of reputable national therapy dog organizations. All of these require a dog to be at least 1 year old to be tested and certified.
- The dog has to be healthy and up-to-date on all shots.
If these conditions are met, it is an appropriate time for the dog to be evaluated to see if he or she is a good candidate for a therapy dog role.
Therapy dog trainers will often provide this type of evaluation and give feedback on the dog’s potential.
The evaluation service may recommend that the dog takes a AKC Canine Good Citizen course prior to actual therapy dog training. The Canine Good Citizen training focuses on learning focusing techniques, loose leash walking , and the overall ability to blend into an urban setting, while maintaining calmness as the team moves through crowds.
If the evaluation determines the “team” is ready to train and register for a therapy preparation class, the Evaluator can guide the team to Trainers experienced in this type of training.
This training prepares both the dog and – as importantly – the handler/owner for visits. Learning to train a dog to be a therapy dog requires work on behalf of both the dog and the handler. They are a team and, if certified, will be certified as a team (the same dog with a different handler will have to be tested for certification again).
When training complete, the trainer should be able to help locate a test for certification. These are tests organized by national therapy dog organizations such as Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs. Passing this test is the point where visits can start.
Once the team has passed their test, and received their Therapy Organization ID Badge, they may wish to consider joining a local group organization (such as The Fur Angels). This provides visits that are already scheduled, the possibility of making friends with similar interests and support if needed. Joining such an organization also provides insurance coverage during visits.
THERAPY DOG CERTIFICATION
A key element to being a certified therapy dog is passing the Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs test.
Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc is the main organization that The Fur Angels work with. Their certification, or certification from other approved organizations, is required by the Fur Angels to become a member.
More information can be found here...
WANT TO TRAIN YOUR DOG TO BE A THERAPY DOG?
Meet our wonderful leaders and trainers: Steve Calcagno and Rose Dalton.
Steve and Rose not only run the Fur Angels but they actively train and evaluate dogs to become therapy dogs.
They can evaluate your dog for it's potential to be a therapy dog, as well as provide the training necessary.