Therapy Is Going to the Dogs

The Resource for Everything About Dogs


Therapy Is Going to the Dogs

by Connie Tersigni



There are Facility Therapy Dogs, Visiting Dogs, Service Dogs, and the list goes on and on, but what exactly does all of this mean? What kind of dogs are these, and better yet, what purpose do they serve?

The breed or sex of these dogs really doesn't matter, what does matter is the dependability of each. Does the small Terrier have the ability to work around other animals without being distracted, or will the Rottweiler not display aggression throughout the numerous contacts with strangers that he will be subjected to? These are just two of the required traits that these dogs must possess, and the requirements certainly don't end here. Therapy dogs must enjoy what they do, not just tolerate their job. They must also have complete trust in their handlers and readily do whatever is asked of them.

Facility Therapy Dogs are frequently used in nursing homes to assist a client in performing a task that they were previously unable to do. The handler and the client's doctor or caregiver will meet to determine appropriate action to accomplish this. Although alot depends on the individual client, the success rate over all is very high with this type of treatment. Clients sometimes will work harder with therapy dogs than with a human therapist. The dog is never judgemental and doesn't object to performing the same task repeatedly. The dog accepts the client for what he or she can or can't do and doesn't expect them to do better. Many clients respond well to this atmosphere. They feel good about putting forth extra effort..to please the dog.

Visiting Dogs are not Therapy Dogs. These dogs are often used just to brighten up the client's day. Many clients don't have daily visitors and look forward to this visit from the dog. Others had to painfully leave their own pets behind when they entered the facility, and these visits become very meaningful to them. They're reminded of the happy times that they previously had. Numerous studies have been performed to track the benefits of human and animal interaction. In some of these studies anxiety levels dropped twice as much from a short canine/client visit as from the same length of human/client visit.

Service Dogs have been used for many years to assist the blind. These dogs are highly trained and extremely dependable. The clients basically entrust these dogs with their lives, and a very strong bond is formed between them. These dogs guide their owners in and out and around the many obstacles that they will encounter throughout their lives. In addition to dogs helping the blind, there are also hearing dogs and seizure alert dogs. Hearing dogs are used to alert their owners to various sounds in and around the home, or at work, such as a siren, the telephone, someone at the door, smoke alarms, etc. Some are taught to alert their owners by physical contact, and then lead them to the source of the sound. They provide a great deal of comfort for their owners by alleviating some of their safety concerns. Seizure Alert dogs can predict when their owners are going to have a seizure. Although it has not been determined exactly how this is done, it is believed that these dogs can smell a seizure. They provide an invaluable service and are able to forewarn their owners so they are able to get to a safe place before the seizure occurs, thus preventing injury. In addition to making the clients lives a lot easier, all of these dogs provide companionship to their owners as well, often filling a lonely void that sometimes accompanies disabilities.

Dogs will never replace all human therapists, but they are great workers..they never call in sick, and they never complain about their work. Most working dogs anxiously await the signal that it's time to go to work, and their happiness is evident by their wagging tail. The greatest characteristic of a dog is their natural ability to give unconditional love and accept everyone as the same..something that we humans sometimes can't do.



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