In the first semester, I decided to switch up from what I normally do on the blog and talk about Service Dogs instead of a specific dog breed. While I love talking about dog breeds and telling the history of all of them, I think that it is very important for people to understand what dogs are capable of. Dogs are not only useful for being a wonderful companion and protector, they are so much more than that. Dogs can be trained to do many things that can be very beneficial to humans. For example, a dog can be trained to be a therapy dog.
Therapy dogs are dogs who are trained to be able to visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools, special needs centers, airports, or other institutions to bring joy to those who are in need of it. The whole point of therapy dogs is to make others happy, whether young or old, sick or healthy.
Any dogs can be therapy dogs if they are trained well. Most therapy dogs are friendly, affectionate, confident, and gentle. Since the primary role of therapy dogs is to interact with other people, it is very important that service dogs are able to work and interact with other people, no matter what the age or gender. However, a dog cannot just have these qualities to be a therapy dog. They have to go through a whole training process to be considered proper therapy dogs.
There are many different tests and training processes for different therapy dog organizations. However, most of the tests are very similar. The tests are typically designed to affirm that an owner and the therapy dog have a good relationship with one another. If an owner cannot control their dog or if the dog does not respect the owner, then they will not be good with strangers or with children. It is also very important for dogs to have a calm nature and temperament so that they will be able to work with certain people. After the test monitors see how the dog behaves with their owner, the dogs then have to go with their owner and a Tester or Observer to three facility visits and two of those three visits must be to a medical facility. During these three visits, the Tester will teach the dog what to do and show them how to interact with patients. If the dog is able to handle the visits, then the Tester will be able to pass the dog and then recommend registration with that specific organization.
It is important to note that if you want to make your dog a therapy dog, they must get their certification through an expert, not just anyone. You would have to go to someone that actually knows what they are doing and can give dogs a legitimate certificate. Here are some organizations that can certify a dog for therapy:
- Alliance of Therapy Dogs
- Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs
- Love on a Leash
- Pet Partners
- Therapy Dogs Incorporated
- Therapy Dogs International
While any dog breed can be trained to be a therapy dog, there are some breeds that are bred to be better than others at this job; they might just have innate characteristics or personalities that make them good for therapy. With this, here are the 10 Best Therapy Dog Breeds:
- Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Now, once the dogs are trained and ready to go be with people, what do they do? It has been proven by many different studies that the presence of a dog can be very soothing and calming to those in stressful situations. Therapy dogs are able to promote activity, conversation, and even an emotional connection between patients. People can interact with therapy dogs through:
- Tossing a ball or toy for the dog to fetch.
- Talking, petting, holding, or cuddling the dog.
- Making the dog to tricks and commands like sitting, rolling over, and even shaking hands.
- Simply enjoying the presence of the dog.
It has also been proven that therapy dogs can really help the social and emotional feelings of people. Due to the unconditional affection of therapy dogs they are able to provide:
- Reduced feelings of loneliness and depression
- Lower levels of anxiety
- A more positive outlook on life and circumstances.
If you are interested in learning more about these studies based on Animal-assisted therapy, check this link out!
If you think that your dog has what it takes to be a therapy dog, click here to find out where to start!