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Dogs are known for the loyalty, love, and companionship they provide to their family. But did you know that many dogs are making a huge impact in their community and bringing this same joy to people beyond their own families? These special dogs are known as therapy dogs, and they can help people in many different ways (click here to learn more about how dogs can positively impact our mental and physical wellbeing). In this blog post, we will explore what a therapy dog is, the benefits of therapy dogs, and how you and your furry friend can become a therapy dog team.
What is a Therapy Dog?
A therapy dog is a specially certified animal that, with its owner, can volunteer to interact with people at various places in the community, like hospitals, schools, and retirement homes. Therapy dogs, while special and unique, are not to be confused with service dogs. Service dogs are trained for specific purposes to assist their owners (e.g., guide dogs for people who are blind, dogs trained to assist their owners with a disability, etc.).
The Benefits of Therapy Dogs
Therapy dogs are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other settings to improve the lives of the people in those facilities. Upon conducting a therapy visit, these very good boys and girls have been found to lower stress, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve mood, and increase socialization.
How to Become a Therapy Dog Team
There are a few key steps to take if you are interested in becoming a therapy dog team with your pup. Firstly, your dog must undergo a temperament evaluation to ensure they are suitable for therapy work. Many places offer this type of test – a quick internet search should prove helpful for your area. Once your dog has passed the evaluation, you will need to join a therapy dog organization and undergo training to become a certified therapy dog team. Again, an internet search should yield helpful results! This comprehensive training involves learning about therapy dog etiquette and how to interact appropriately with people in various settings. Once certified, there are different levels of service a therapy dog team can achieve based on the number of visits to designated facilities you perform as a team. For example, an AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD) is one who has completed 400 visits!
Things to Consider Before Becoming a Therapy Dog Team
Becoming a therapy dog team is not just about training your dog – it’s also important to consider whether you are personally suited for the role. Therapy dog work can be emotionally challenging and requires a lot of patience and empathy. You will be interacting with people who may be going through tough times, and it’s essential to be able to handle this without becoming emotionally overwhelmed.
Making a Difference as a Therapy Dog Team
Once you and your dog are certified as a therapy dog team, you will have the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Whether you’re visiting hospitals and nursing homes or helping children learn to read, therapy dog work can be gratifying and fulfilling. You will have the chance to see the immediate positive impact that your dog is having on people’s lives, which can be an incredibly gratifying experience.
Therapy dogs are extraordinary animals, capable of bringing comfort and joy to those in need. If you and your furry friend are interested in becoming a therapy dog team, there are many opportunities available. By following the steps outlined above and considering the emotional challenges involved, you can become a part of this fantastic community of dedicated individuals and dogs making a difference in the world.
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