If you have a good citizen dog who is friendly, well-behaved, and loves people, it might occur to you that your dog could be a good therapy dog.
Such as people recuperating in hospitals, those who are recovering from a natural disaster, or those who are grieving or lonely and living in nursing homes. The unconditional affection a dog offers can help heal broken hearts, help people mend faster from medical issues, or just make them feel better when they’re doing a difficult job, such as that of a first responder.
They must naturally like people and be comfortable in a variety of situations, but there is more to it. In fact, there is specific training and there are obedience tests that prove a dog is ready to become a therapy dog.
What Is A Dog Therapy
There is a difference between service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs.
Many times, people will use these words interchangeably, but there are big differences between these three descriptions. Most businesses have a sign saying something to the effect of, “No pets allowed, but service dogs are welcome.
From a legal standpoint, a service dog must be individually trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability and those tasks must be directly related to the disability in question. That means, for instance, if a person is legally blind, they have a service dog who is trained to guide them as they walk, for instance. Likewise, a person with diabetes may have a service dog who is trained to alert her when her blood sugar reaches high or low levels.
Service dogs are legally protected and allowed to accompany their human partner anywhere the human is allowed to go. The Americans Disabilities Act does not require that the owner of the service dog provide any proof of the dog’s service training or identify their training with any type of clothing, although many people do have their service dogs wearing vests to identify them as service animals.
Therapy dogs do receive training, but it is much more general and geared toward good behavior than a service dog’s training. Therapy dogs generally accompany their owner to visit people in specific settings, such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes to provide comfort to people in need. Therapy dogs provide the benefits of spending time with animals to people who can’t have animals around for whatever reason. Spending time with animals, especially dogs, has been shown to decrease stress levels and blood pressure and increase overall mental health.
Emotional support animals
Many people believe that their emotional support animals are as necessary to them as a service dog would be to a person who has epilepsy, for instance, but the law doesn’t see them as the same.
Someone who has an EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AMIMAL takes comfort simply from being near the animal, holding them, petting them, talking to them, etc. An emotional support animal is not trained to perform a specific mental health or physical health task.
The Americans Disabilities Act does not cover EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AMIMAL, which means that EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AMIMAL would not be permitted on trains, airplanes, in restaurants, grocery stores, workplaces, or any other places where animals would not normally be permitted.
if you have a letter from a medical professional explaining that, in their professional opinion, you need that animal around, you can get some legal protections. they can live with you in pet-free apartments and fly with you on airplanes. Airlines explains that emotional support animals may fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements of assisting individuals with emotional, psychiatric, or cognitive disabilities, and the airline has advance notice of the animal flying and approves it.
Training a therapy dog
“The first things we look for when evaluating animals to be therapy animals is that they’re not just tolerant of people, but they’re really, really, excited to meet new people,” Healy said. “We look for very friendly, outgoing dogs who solicit attention from strangers.”
You know the type of dog: the ones that light up and whose tails won’t stop wagging as soon as someone new walks by. Some dogs naturally have this personality, while other dogs may get agitated or seem indifferent when someone new walks by. A dog that doesn’t actively want a lot of attention, cuddles, and petting not only isn’t going to be a good therapy dog, but they probably won’t enjoy the work.
Healy said t is quite common for pet parents to bring their dog in thinking that they would make a good therapy dog, but when training starts, it becomes clear that they really don’t enjoy a lot of attention from strangers all that much.
“That’s not a bad thing, but it means that their dog probably wouldn’t be a good therapy dog,
Puppy therapy dog socialization
Healy looks for dogs who have their obedience and listening skills dialed in, and are manageable enough to not trip over tubes going to and from an oxygen tank, for instance, or knock small children over in a group reading at a library. For pet parents thinking about training their puppy to be a good therapy dog.
“If you are getting a puppy, work to be sure that they’re totally comfortable in whatever situation you’re planning on having them do therapy work in, Healy said.
“So if you want to go to the hospital or work with people with disabilities, they need to be super comfortable with mobility equipment, loud noises, and all different kinds of people talking and moving around.”
The Canine Good Citizen test
The Canine Good Citizen test consists of 10 skills. It is open to all dogs, purebred and mixed breed, and it focuses on teaching basic obedience and good manners. While the Canine Good Citizen test isn’t a requirement to become a therapy dog, it does teach and strengthen basic obedience skills and provides a good foundation for more training.
Therapy dog certification
“They also help you navigate important things about having a good therapy dog such as how to speak to your clients when you’re doing therapy and how to support your animal.
They also look at the handler and make sure that the handler is really good at reading the dog’s stress signals. It’s important for the handler to be able to tell if their dog is getting over aroused, worried, or fatigued.
If a little kid runs up, they might not be gentle with your dog, so we have to make sure that these dogs are super comfortable being handled and won’t growl if someone tries to pick them up.”
Another example is being able to handle extreme emotions. So, for instance, the dogs would be exposed to an angry couple yelling at each other.
“We want to make sure that the dog’s not going to be startled by that, and it’s willing to keep working in an environment, even if there is some uncomfortable stuff going on around them.