Would YOUR Best Friend Make a Good Therapy Dog

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Would YOUR Best Friend Make a Good Therapy Dog

by Julia Winters

Service dogs are making the news more and more often - and with good reason.

Seeing-eye dogs have been around for a long time, and we have dogs to assist the deaf and do errands for people in wheel-chairs. Now, taking dogs into hospitals, nursing homes, and schools for troubled children is a growing trend.

As humans begin to understand the very real need for total acceptance and a kind touch, we're realizing that dogs can often help people more than people can help people.

These are known as therapy dogs, and they can soothe the most troubled soul. Through their unconditional acceptance and love, they touch people who are too shy, afraid, or embarrassed to interact with humans. They allow those people to reach out to touch and hug a living being without fear of reprisal or rejection. And perhaps giving love is as important as receiving it.

Research is now showing that these dogs help people heal, both physically and emotionally.

Personality plays a huge part. It takes a calm canine to be a therapy dog - and one who enjoys being touched and petted and hugged by a variety of different people. Some dogs just have an abundance of love to give.

It also takes some obedience training, since the dogs must instantly react to commands such as sit, down, and stay. They must not get excited at strange sights and sounds, but remain calm at all times.

For this reason, some of the best therapy dogs are older. Some are even dogs who were abandoned or turned in at shelters for the sin of aging.

Therapy Dogs International was established in 1970 and certifies dogs for therapy work. Right now, about 15,000 dogs and 13,000 handlers are registered with TDI. The Delta Society, headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, also trains human-animal teams for therapy work. Their program goes beyond dogs to include cats, chickens, rabbits, donkeys, goats, horses, and more. The majority, however, are dogs.

Because dogs aren't allowed into hospitals all alone, they must have a handler. This person must possess the same loving and calm personality as the dogs. Depending upon the need, the dog and handler might spend an hour or more with just one patient. The handler must be as compassionate as the dog, and willing to listen while people in pain tell their stories.

Many therapy dog handlers are volunteers. They and their dogs donate their time out of a genuine desire to help their fellow man.

If you think you and your dog would make a good therapy team, visit http://www.tdi-org or http://www.deltasociety.org for information on becoming certified.

Julia loves all animals, but has a special affinity for dogs. She helped found an animal rescue in her town and lives with 3 "rescue dogs" of her own. Or maybe she belongs to the three rescue dogs. In her spare time she volunteers to write fund raising letters for small rescues.

Visit http://www.doyoulovedogs.com for information about rescue, caring for your dog, how to choose a dog, dog stories, dog quotes, and more.

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