Ever wonder exactly what therapy dogs do, or if your dog could be a therapy dog?
All us dog lovers know how special a little canine companionship can be. Life just wouldn’t be complete without a furry friend nearby!
Somehow, when one is stressed or feeling poorly for whatever reason, the simple act of looking into those big brown, understanding eyes and petting that package of unconditional love seems to work wonders.
Therapy Dog History
A nurse by the name of Elaine Smith noticed this too when the local chaplain brought his Golden Retriever along when visiting patients in the hospital.
In 1976, she took it a step further by founding Therapy Dogs International. This organization was the first to provide registration and certification of potential therapy dogs (and their owners), and inform hospitals and other institutions of the availability and accomplishments of therapy dogs.
How Therapy Dogs Help People
It is well known that dogs and other pets can have a healing effect on those with longterm illnesses or in elder care. The presence of a therapy dog can work miracles, providing companionship and a most welcome focus away from pain or depression.
In fact, therapy dogs have such a positive impact that FEMA even requested therapy dogs to provide emotional support not only to victims, but also the response workers of Hurricane Katrina. Therapy Dogs International deployed a number of dog teams from their Disaster Stress Relief unit, which was formed through experience gained in the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11.
Therapy Dogs Help Kids Read
Did you know that therapy dogs can also help kids learn to read? That’s right, they’re pretty talented pups!
It’s simple, really. Some students are very shy or find it too embarrassing to read aloud in front of other humans at their skill level. But a dog makes a perfect non-judgmental listener. Most kids are quite comfortable reading to the pets brought into schools or libraries for this purpose. As a result, these children quickly gain confidence and improve their skills — and their grades.
In fact, if you have kids at that are struggling with learning to read, why not give it a try at home? You never know… it can’t hurt, it could help, and it might be fun!
Think Your Dog Could Be A Therapy Dog?
Today, there are thousands of therapy dog teams nationwide, and quite a few therapy dog organizations. Most all require pets be certified by passing the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test.
Added to that are tests to see how the dog and owner handle the distractions of being in an institutional environment — the clatter of wheelchairs or bed rails, dropped clipboards, a crowded room, or proximity to other animals. Prospective therapy dogs must be current on all vaccinations, be well groomed, and in good physical condition.
All breeds can and do make great therapy dogs, from the loftiest of purebreds to the goofiest looking mutts plucked out of animal shelters.
Temperament is probably the biggest factor in determining whether a particular dog — and his owner — will be successful volunteers. If you think you and your dog have what it takes to reap the rewards of bringing fun and joy to others, check it out!