A Friend to All: Therapy Dogs 101
Dogs have lived and worked alongside humans for more than 14,000 years, protecting us, assisting us in hunting and acquiring food, and providing us with joy and companionship. Although life for the modern canine is significantly more comfortable than it was for their ancestors, having a “job” to do can still be a major benefit to many dogs. Learning to become a therapy dog can be a wonderful way to provide a service to others while giving your dog a fulfilling and enjoyable activity.
Therapy dogs are typically trained to provide love, comfort, and support to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, hospices, retirement homes, or disaster areas. If you’ve ever wondered if your pooch has what it takes to become a therapy dog, let the team at Schertz Animal Hospital help you figure it out!
Standards and Requirements
There are numerous organizations that provide training for therapy dogs, and the requirements vary depending on the individual institution where the dog will be visiting. Some of the tests that a therapy dog may need to pass before being allowed into a facility include:
- Calm reaction to sudden loud noises
- Get along well with children and the elderly
- Not startled or frightened by the use of canes, wheelchairs, or people with unusual or uncoordinated ways of walking and moving
- Well trained (some institutions require that dogs pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test)
Therapy Dogs vs. Service Dogs
It’s easy to confuse therapy dogs with service dogs, but there are important differences between the two. By law, a service is dog is one who is trained to provide assistance or do a specific job for a person with a mental or physical disability, such as hearing or visual impairments, seizures, diabetes, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and limited mobility. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, service animals are allowed to accompany their handlers into businesses and public spaces that would otherwise be off limits to pets.
Although therapy dogs provide invaluable services for the humans they come into contact with, they are not protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act and therefore don’t have the same access rights as a service animal.
Are You and Your Dog Ready?
If your dog is healthy, social, responds well to training, and you both enjoy meeting new people, therapy dog training may be a good fit! If you have any questions about therapy dog training, or want to make sure your pet is healthy before you begin, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Schertz Animal Hospital.