Could your dog be a therapy dog?

May 12th, 2007 by Kathy Hawkins

Whether you help with yardwork at a nature preserve or prepare food for a soup kitchen, volunteer work can be a very rewarding opportunity for you and your community. But volunteer work isn’t just for humans — with a little preparation, your dog may be able to join in.

By registering your dog as a therapy dog, he will be eligible to visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and other institutions. Research has proven that spending time with a dog can improve both a person’s mood and physical wellness — wouldn’t you like your dog to help brighten someone’s day? Here’s how to do it.

Photo by Ann Norman.

Any breed is eligible to become a therapy dog, whether you’ve got a purebreed or an unknown mix. However, you’ll have to evaluate his temperament before making a commitment. Is your dog nervous around new people, or is he friendly with everyone he meets? Does he respond well to commands? Does he have any aggressive tendencies? If you’re planning to bring your dog to places like nursing homes and hospitals, where you are likely to spend time around people who may be very frail or ill, it is essential to know that your dog will be calm and well-behaved. Before you think about becoming involved in therapeutic activities, expose your dog to a wide variety of people and make sure that he acts appropriately in every situation. If necessary, take an obedience course to ensure that he can follow orders perfectly.

If your dog is a joy around strangers and aced his obedience course, there’s every chance he’d make a great therapy dog. In that case, it’s time to get in touch with a therapy dog group. You could join either a national organization, such as Therapy Dogs International or Delta Society Pet Partners Program, or a local group. A comprehensive listing of therapy dog groups throughout the United States can be found here. Any of these organizations will be likely to have strict guidelines and advance preparation before your dog can begin therapy. For instance, you will be required to purchase insurance coverage, in the event that your dog or another individual is injured during a therapeutic visit. Most programs will also require their own specific certification, relying on a temperament test and a health test for your dog. You will also need to make sure that your dog is up-to-date on all of the necessary shots, and is in overall good health.

Your dog is one of the greatest companions in your life — always loyal, always thrilled to see you. By registering him as a therapy dog, he can bring the same joy to other people who could use a little cheering up. So if you’re thinking about a new volunteer activity, think about bringing your furry pal along.

5 Responses to “Could your dog be a therapy dog?”

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    [...] breed can excel at many activities including herding, agility, obedience, french ring, schutzhund, therapy dog work, cart pulling, tracking and almost anything else you can think of! These are BIG dogs – ranging [...]

  2. What is a Service Animal? | Dog Reflections Says:

    [...] Therapy animals are not legally defined by federal law, but some states have laws defining therapy animals. They provide people with contact to animals, but are not limited to working with people who have disabilities. They are usually the personal pets of their handlers, and work with their handlers to provide services to others. Federal laws have no provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation that have “no pets” policies. Therapy animals usually are not service animals. [...]

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    [...] Well Trained Beagle Can Be A Great…: Therapy Dog! Because of their small size and gentle demeanor, these dogs can be excellent therapy companions. [...]

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    [...] Photo by vizwhip Australian Shepherd: In spite of its name the Australian Shepherd did *not* originate in Australia. In fact the breed began in the Western United States. However the name came from the breeds foundation with sheepherders that came to the United States from Australia. Aussies are very much one person (or family) dogs and do not usually take kindly to strangers. They can be quite protective. Australian Shepherds will try to herd anything that moves- other dogs, animals or people. Like the Border Collie, they need a job to do or an outlet for their energy, if they don’t have this, behavioral issues will arise. Aussies excel in obedience, fly ball, Frisbee and agility. They also can be trained to be search and rescue dogs, disaster dogs, detection dogs, guide, service and therapy dogs. [...]

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    [...] on activities you can do with your dog (see the first half here!). From Musical Freestyle to Therapy Dog work, there is a little something for everyone on this list – Check out 5 More Fabulous Sports To Try [...]

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