Therapy dogs are showing up in all sorts of places. We have all seen companion dogs that help take care of their owner who needs special care. These dogs usually aren’t therapy dogs but service dogs that have been trained to help their owner with their disability. Therapy dogs on the other hand are dogs people own and train to bring a smile or comfort to other people. You will find therapy dogs and their owners working in schools, libraries, and other educational places and visiting nursing homes, hospitals and clinics all over the United States. Here are a few things they do:
Therapy Dog News
The Lexington Herald-Leader ran a few stories this past week about therapy dogs. One was about a school in Nebraska that has 3 therapy dogs that work with children in the elementary, middle and high schools there. They help children learn about social skills, emotions and how to read. The other article was about pairing up shelter dogs (usually special needs) that are unable to be adopted with veterans. It is a win-win situation that provides the needs of the dogs and the veterans themselves. The name of the organization is Paws for Patriots.
Local Therapy Dog Organizations
Your local humane society or shelter is a great place to get information about therapy dogs and local groups near you. One organization in the area is Love on a Leash. This organization is based out of California and has a local group in Central Kentucky. You can visit their website at loalcky.com. They have many members and their therapy dogs visit libraries, schools, nursing homes and hospitals. They are involved in the Paws to Read Program that helps children by letting them read to dogs. This is great for kids who are bashful about reading to people.
How Can Your Pet Become a Therapy Dog?
If you have a pet that is at least a year old and loves people, chances are they can be trained to be a therapy pet. Most organizations expect your dog to be able to pass a test that includes different challenges that means they can handle themselves in many different circumstances. They must be able to master basic obedience skills as well as handle stressful, noisy situations. Having a dog that is considered hypoallergenic, such as a poodle, for example, helps too.
Most therapy dogs must be re-certified each year and be up to date on their veterinary visits and shots. If you are considering becoming the owner of a therapy dog, talk to your veterinarian about what breed dog will make the best therapy dog. You can also visit your local shelter or Pet adoption agency to see if they have any dogs that have a good temperament. With love and attention you can train the right dog to be a therapy dog.