Canines share a connection with people that makes them uniquely qualified to assist in therapy. They are able to help those who are experiencing emotional and physical challenges to overcome their trials. They can bring comfort to patients who are dealing with problems that have made functioning in everyday life difficult. These are some of the many reasons dogs are used as therapy animals. They fill a role that doctors, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, and other care providers cannot.
Canines have been used in this capacity for decades, beginning with World War II when they provided comfort for wounded soldiers. Today, they can be found in hospitals, retirement homes, psychologists’ offices, and many other places that help people cope with a variety of issues.
In this article, we’ll describe several ways in which therapy dogs (TDs) help others. We’ll also present the qualities a good TD should have in order to improve the progress of its “patients.” Lastly, you’ll learn how to get involved with your pet in providing therapy for those in need.
The Many Roles Of A Therapy Animal
There are many ways in which a TD can assist others. Much depends on the person’s needs. For example, some animals are trained to allow those with physical impairments to walk them. Others are trained to play with the person, taking their minds off other matters. Still other therapy canines are trained to simply sit quietly next to young people, listening to them talk or read.
The therapeutic effect an animal has on the person in its care varies by the affliction as well as the bond shared with the person. Some people might make substantial progress in overcoming their challenges simply because the dog is near them, and patient. Others may need more active interaction, such as petting, talking, or walking the animal.
The roles a TD plays in the lives of those it helps are dictated by the needs of the patients. Every patient represents a unique case. For example, a child may refuse to open up and speak with adults until she speaks with her therapy dog first. A physical therapy patient might be on the verge of giving up until he is introduced to a TD suffering a similar ailment. In many cases, the assistance a therapy canine can offer remains a mystery until he meets the patient.
What Traits Are Suitable For Therapy Dogs?
While any canine can potentially become a therapy dog, certain qualities are desired. For example, your pet should be friendly with all types of people, even when encountering them for the first time. Ideally, he should have received socialization training early in his life.
He should also be able to stay calm since he may be required to sit quietly with patients. This means your canine should refrain from barking excessively or jumping up on people. He should avoid pulling on his leash when walking since doing so may harm the person walking him.
Your dog must also be able to remain calm around other animals regardless of the circumstance. If another animal displays aggression, your pet should be trained to avoid a confrontation.
How To Get Started Providing Therapy With Your Pet
Becoming part of a therapy program, such as the Delta Society, requires training – for you and your pet. Each animal works with a designated handler, which in most cases, is the owner. Before being admitted into a program, you’ll need to present evidence that your canine is well-mannered, and displays the traits described earlier. In many cases, you’ll be required to complete one or more courses with your pet that prepare you both for the work ahead.
Once you finish the required courses, and prove to the program’s review staff that you and your canine are suitable for the job, you’ll be assigned to patients. This marks the beginning of an experience most owners find to be rewarding.
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