What is a therapy dog?
A therapy dog is one that helps facilitates recovery and helps alleviate mental anguish and pain in various situations. A therapy dog increases the livelihood, reduces stress, invigorates people who lack vigor, and helps to cheer up and to increase the happiness in people who for one reason or another need it.
You can find therapy dogs in various places and in various situations. Some examples are: homes for the elderly, physical therapy clinics, hospital wards, homes for abused children, rehabilitation center, mental health facilities and more.
Benefits of therapy dogs
The benefits of having a therapy dog are numerous and are beyond monetary compensation. The dog gets to enjoy the company of many individuals who enjoy the benefit of having a loving soul interact directly with them without the barriers of language and cultural norms and codes of conduct. The one-on-one interaction between a dog and a human presents very strong positive emotional responses and facilitates healing and increased cheerfulness. The owner of the dog enjoys helping other individuals who need help the most and gets to see how his/her dog puts smiles on peoples faces. People, who sometimes, have forgotten what it is to smile and feel the warmth of living.
What does it take to train a therapy dog?
Simply put, your dog needs to know how to behave politely around other people. While this is a bit simplistic – it is the main concern for therapy dogs. Your dog should be able to sit politely for petting, accept handling, accept various types of equipment without fearing them (crutches, wheelchairs, hospital equipment, etc.) and basically have a stable temperament and personality.
A good start for training a therapy dog is training for the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and passing it. A dog that passes the CGC test is well on his/her way to become a therapy dog. After passing the CGC test, you should join a therapy dog association or society. Each association will have other requirements such as age requirements, specific tests and temperament testing, etc. If your dog passes all the requirements – you have a therapy dog.