The first step is for your dog to have Canine Good Citizen (CGC) level obedience and actually getting tested and earning the CGC title is always a good starting place. Brush Creek Service and Therapy Dog Center offers CGC evaluations monthly and classes by appointment. If you believe your dog is ready to test, you are not required to take our classes as a prerequisite to testing. Most therapy dog organizations will not test a dog for therapy work before they are at least a year old. You will have to judge your dog’s maturity to know when he or she is ready to test, but you can start the obedience training at 8 weeks old. Another important early step is proper socialization, expose your puppy or dog to as much of the world as you can, while building confidence in the puppy or the dog.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers six different titles for therapy dogs based on how many visits the team has made; starting with the Therapy Dog Novice (THDN) for completing 10 visits and going up to Therapy Dog Supreme (THDS) for making 600 visits. A visit is a facility not the number of people you contact in a facility.
Concerns about Therapy Dogs
Some of the concerns that come with therapy dogs are possible allergic reactions in some people. There is the possibility of patient possessive behaviors or attachment problems. The dog has to be bathed brushed, nails kept short, vaccines kept up to date and the handler must practice good hand hygiene to alleviate hygiene concerns.
While you should not pet a service dog when you encounter one in public as they need to retain their focus on their handler, the therapy dog should thrive on attention and should be well-mannered when approached in public.
There are several organizations that certify therapy dogs and each has their own requirements for team testing. The handler and the dog are certified as a team. Some general behaviors that you should look for if you are considering therapy work with your dog; the dog should be outgoing and confident, but calm in many, varied environments; the dog should not be easily frightened by noises or quick movements; have impeccable social skills and housetraining.
Benefits of Therapy Dogs/Animal Assisted Intervention
A few of the many benefits of Animal Assisted Intervention with a therapy dog include improvement in conditions such as anxiety, depression, social skills and mood improvement of patients. Psychologically Animal Assisted Intervention offers relief and peace to a wide age range of vulnerable people with varied emotional issues. The dog offers non-judgmental and open emotional support. Animal Assisted Intervention is also valuable in disaster response or crisis situations. There is special training available for teams that would like to serve that segment of the population.
In school situations, kids are more open to reading aloud to a dog, the dog is a good listener. Studies show that using “read to me” canine programs in schools has increased comprehension, reading fluency, increased motivation to read, and encourages reluctant readers by making reading more fun. These benefits are seen in reading programs in libraries as well as schools.
Physically, dogs improve cardiovascular health, take focus off pain, lower blood pressure and stress, and improve depression and anxiety as well as motivate more activity and socialization.
In the United States, therapy dogs are defined by the Federal Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, but therapy dogs are not covered by or protected under either. Therapy dogs are not afforded public access rights like service dogs.
Our services with Therapy Dogs
If you would like to have your dog trained to be a therapy dog, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer therapy dog training as part of our owner trainer program or board and train program.
For more information see our owner-trainer page.
If you would like to have a therapy dog visit your facility please contact email@example.com to make the request.
Therapy dogs are used in various settings to bring comfort to individuals in need. Therapy dogs don’t just work to bring joy to their handlers, but to other people; a variety of people and situations can be helped by the visits of a therapy dog. Settings where you might encounter a therapy dog include; hospitals, mental health institutions, hospice programs, schools and even court rooms where children are asked to testify. Any setting where a dog can add confidence and bring security and comfort is a good setting for therapy dogs. It is not uncommon for the dog to ignite joyful memories in the older population.