Maybe you’ve seen them on social media, or know someone who’s interacted with them? They draw a crowd…at colleges, schools of all varieties, libraries, nursing homes and hospitals.
They are called “Therapy Dogs”…offering wordless comfort, support, and confidence in difficult situations & locations, or wherever they may provide distraction & relief from day-to-day pressures of life…
Petting Therapy Dogs can do amazing things like helping to lower blood pressure & heart rates and stimulate memory & other senses. Other times, they visit hospitals & nursing homes providing a distraction to the stress of convalescence. In libraries, they can help children struggling with reading skills develop better fluency & confidence by reading to the dog aloud. In colleges, they assist college students with the stress & anxiety of being away from family or familiar supports. They even serve as volunteers for Hospice Services, visiting patients in homes and hospitals, providing breaks in the most difficult situations at an individual’s most challenging time.
And it isn’t just dogs that can become certified as therapy animals. Cats, pocket pets, and horses have brought smiles and relief to so many people.
Locally, therapy animals can be trained and tested to be sure the pet and the owner are up to the task. The animal is evaluated to be sure it has the disposition to do the work. Once both the owner and evaluator agree that the pet seems to have what it takes, the pet and handler receive training specially adapted to creating a therapy team.
The training isn’t very different than what the pet is used to: simple commands like sitting, leash walking, able to not be extraordinarily distracted by crowds and even other dogs are the kinds of behaviors the therapy team practices. After the training by skilled instructors, the team is tested…and the “Therapy” title can be bestowed on these wonderful critters by one of the nationally recognized organizations who establish the standards, and the team is on its way!
The human volunteers at the other end of the leash will tell you how much they enjoy sharing their dogs with others- being able to make people smile, relax, maybe remember their own pets – all by showing up with their therapy dog. The dogs would tell you how much fun it is to meet new people, get lots & lots of attention, maybe show off some tricks they may know…or perhaps just share their love of being with humans.
Therapy dogs can be any size, breed or mix, need to be at least 1 year old, and have a friendly demeanor to those they’ve just met. They should be comfortable in strange locations, and get along readily with other animals. Already having some basic obedience skills or good manners is also helpful, but not required.
If you’re interested in learning more about therapy dogs, including whether your pet could possibly become one, there are local trainers who can help you decide if your pet and you are a fit for this exciting work.
If you are interested yourself in becoming a Therapy Team, you can contact the trainers with Positive Paws at 845-635-8977 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free evaluation. And who knows, maybe your dog can become one of these special animal ambassadors…bring some joy in a way no human can.
The mission of Positive Paws is to assist owners in having a positive long-term relationship with their dogs. Using humane, gentle (and fun!) training techniques with behavior modification, we help owners teach their dogs to be well-mannered family members.
Positive Paws is a full-service dog training school located in Dutchess County, NY. We have serviced the Hudson Valley area since 2000.