CHANGING TEARS TO SMILES
WHAT MAKES A GOOD THERAPY DOG
Therapy dogs are special and can work magic! But, not all dogs were born to do this work. It doesn’t mean one dog is better than another or more special than another, it just means that all dogs are different, just like us . Not all of us can be doctors, we need good nurses and car mechanics too.
Although training is needed to be sure a therapy dog has manners, the innermost special attribute that is needed is a temperament that loves to interact with people. This cannot be trained! Some breeds tolerate people, some breeds are indifferent to people, and some breeds love everyone…..family, friends, strangers, space aliens, doesn’t matter!
THE JOB OF A THERAPY DOG
Therapy dogs visit nursing homes, hospitals convalescent centers, hospice centers etc. Think of these visits from the patient’s point of view. A lovely, well mannered dog enters the room and the patient is delighted with the visit. Everybody wants to pet the visitor. The dog sits politely and tolerates the touches. Perhaps he yawns or turns his head away. Perhaps he stands up and moves away.
Contrast this with a dog that enters the room wagging his tail full of anticipation to meet a new friend. His eyes are bright and the dog almost shakes with excitement when he sees the patient. He sits like the well mannered dog that he is and delights in the pets and conversation from the new friend.
Research has shown that visits from therapy dogs decrease blood pressure and stress levels in patients visited during the session. Therapy dogs can be an antidote for depression and can break up a daily monotonous routine. Visits from therapy dogs and their owners can take a person’s mind off their own problems and aches and pains as they interact with the therapy team.
REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTIFICATION
Before you decide to have your dog tested for registration as a therapy dog, be sure his manners are good and that he wants to do the work. Don’t be a parent that pressures his child to go to medical school when he would rather go to vocational school. Love and respect the dog for who he is.
Dog must be at least one year of age
Dog must be up to date on all vaccines
Dog must have a fecal check every 12 months
Dog can be pure bred or mixed breed
Dog must have a calm temperament
Dog must be good around other dogs
Dog cannot pull on the leash
Dog cannot jump on people
Dog cannot be startled by strange noises, equipment, or environments
The handler of the dog must pass a background check and complete paperwork issued by the Alliance for Therapy Dogs. The team of dog and handler must be tested by an Evaluator for both temperament and obedience, and make three facility visits under the supervision of the Evaluator.
A THERAPY DOG IS NOT A SERVICE DOG
And remember, a therapy dog is not protected by federal laws like a service dog. Therapy dogs are not allowed in the cabin of a plane, public restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Service dogs are specially trained to aid a disabled person, whether blind, deaf, epileptic, you get the point. These dogs are protected by federal law and can accompany their person wherever they go. If a therapy dog is misrepresented as a service dog, the rules of ATD (Alliance of Therapy Dogs) have been violated and the membership with ATD has been put at risk.
ALLIANCE OF THERAPY DOGS