BIDT will work closely with Paws for Therapy but will focus on training potential therapy dog teams. We will continue to offer our Canine Good Citizen Class and give the CGC Test multiple times throughout the year. We will also offer Therapy Dog prep classes and private lessons as needed.
Once a prospective therapy dog team has met the requirements, BIDT will schedule a meet and greet with Paws for Therapy.
For more information about Paws for Therapy, or to request a therapy dog visit at your facility, go to: pawsfortherapy.org
For information about training and GCG classes, go to: Believeindog.com
Or call 713-364-4439.
For more information about certified therapy dog organizations in your area, go to: http://www.akc.org/events/title-recognition-program/therapy/organizations/
Dedicated to the memory of Bethy the lovely young lady who taught us so much about Pet Therapy.
What is a Therapy Dog?
Therapy Dogs are pets that work with their owners to provide therapeutic visits to organizations and people that could benefit from interacting and connecting with well-trained, affectionate dogs.
Research has shown the benefits of interacting with therapy dogs to be highly diverse and include the following:
- Reduce levels of pain and anxiety among hospitalized children and adults
- Increase focus and interaction among children with autism and other developmental disorders
- Reduce loneliness and boredom, and increase social behaviors among nursing home residents
- Lower blood pressure and heart rates
- Alleviate depression symptoms
- Increase endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine
You may see therapy dogs working their magic in a wide range of places like assisted living facilities, hospice facilities, hospitals, and schools. Therapy dogs are also effective with groups that provide services for children and adults with disabilities, veterans with PTSD, and people in substance abuse recovery programs.
Therapy dogs should not be confused with service dogs. Service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, such as guide dogs for the blind. Service dogs stay with their people and are allowed special access to public places like restaurants, grocery stores, schools, planes, etc. Therapy dogs are not granted the same privileges and are allowed to make visits to public places only through special arrangements with each individual location.
Every therapy dog organization has their own requirements and testing. The training, testing, and standards should be comprehensive and rigorous for both dogs and their human handlers to ensure safe and effective visits.
The first step for most certified therapy dog organizations is to build a training foundation to pass the Canine Good Citizen Test. The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community.
Once the dog becomes a Canine Good Citizen, a more advanced test or class is usually the next step. The purpose of the more advanced test is to observe the handler’s relationship with their dog and to assess the dog’s skills and temperament in a public place. Often, this test will be given in a busy location and can include exercises such as, walking through large crowds, spending time in areas where children are playing, being pet by children and adults of all shapes and sizes, being bumped from behind, walking and working closely with other dogs, going up and down stairs, riding in an elevator, walking next to wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc.
What Makes a Good Therapy Dog?
Most people are surprised to discover that most dogs do NOT enjoy or want to do therapy work. Imagine being taken to a party in a foreign place where you were expected to talk to, interact with, and be touched by every person there. I daresay that very few people would enjoy such a party, and as much as we want to believe that every dog is just like Lassie, there are very few dogs that would enjoy such a party.
Therapy dogs must have an extremely reliable, unshakeable, and predictable temperament. All the obedience training and testing is important and necessary. However, we simply cannot train an adult dog to have a certain temperament any more than we can train people to have a certain temperament. Most of the time, they either have it or they don’t. The fact that their dog is not right for therapy work can be a big disappointment for some owners, but we must listen our dogs and respect their boundaries. It would be cruel for us to force them to go to the party.
Basic characteristics therapy dog candidates must exhibit:
- Loves all people and strangers
- Actively seeks out affection and attention
- Is comfortable being touched all over in all kinds of ways
- Is at ease with people that look and act very differently than what they are used to
- Is comfortable in crowds and/or many different environments
- Is neutral when meeting other dogs
- Has fantastic basic obedience and self-control
- Is physically and emotionally mature (at least 1yr of age)
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