What is a Therapy Dog?
By Brianne Statz, CPDT-KA
Dogs can be a great source of happiness – think about the way your face lights up when you see your dog at the end of a long work day. They can improve mood and reduce stress. A therapy dog is a pet with a stable temperament that can provide affection, comfort and stress reduction for people in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and disaster areas. A therapy dog needs to have basic obedience skills, and to become certified, the dog must pass an evaluation along with his or her owner. (Hint, hint – dropping in to a beginner doggy school or doggy high school week 4 class is a great way to brush up on the key skills of leash walking and polite greetings!).
Dogs are not the only animals that can help people – there are therapy cats, bunnies and horses too! Recently I began volunteering my time with a local organization, the “I Am Magic Foundation” (http://www.immagicfoundation.org/). While the primary focus has been on horses helping people, we have also started working on training several dogs to make therapy visits (it’s a bit easier to travel with a dog than a horse). Nikki the lab mix made her first visit to a long term care facility recently, and the residents (and Nikki!) were delighted with the visit. Our goal is to certify several rescue dogs through the “Love on a Leash” organization (http://www.loveonaleash.org/). Eventually we hope to start a local chapter of this organization to complement and help support the work with horses.
Do you think your dog might make a good therapy dog? We would like to build a group of therapy teams that can make visits to assisted living facilities, schools, or any facilities that may benefit from a dog visit. If you are interested, we can help support your goal by providing training tips and helping with the certification process.
If your dog is not a good fit for a therapy dog, but you are interested in helping out, we are also looking for volunteers to help coordinate visits with facilities, work with the rescue dogs living on the farm toward certification, or volunteer with the horses as well. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.