Therapy dogs provide great therapeutic benefits
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A therapy dog is one who is trained to allow people it doesn’t know to make physical contact with it in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices.
While adults usually just want to pet the dogs, kids like being able to hug them. Sometimes the therapy dog’s handler will lift the dog onto a patient’s bed so that it can lie there with them.
Visiting with animals can help people feel less lonely, and less depressed. Visits from dogs can provide a welcome change from routine, or the renewal of old friendships. People become more active and responsive both during and after visiting with animals.
Therapy dogs can be any breed or size as long as it is friendly, gentle, and have a good temperament when interacting with people. Therapy dogs have to be okay with having lots of people touch and pet it, from children to senior citizens. Some dogs just have that special personality that makes them good as therapy dogs.
When dogs visit a healthcare facility, it’s an opportunity for the patients to take their minds off of their pains or infirmities and be happily entertained or distracted for a while. Patients look forward to the days that they know that therapy dogs will be visiting.
Studies show that a person can lower his/her blood pressure by petting a dog. People have fond memories of their own pets that they used to have and will often “talk” to the dogs and share memories with them about their own dogs.
Not all health care facilities will allow handlers to bring in their dogs for pet therapy. For example, in some hospitals, they’ll let dogs in, but they put special coverings on them to prevent dog dander from aggravating someone who is allergic to it.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes require that you give up your pet when you move in, so having a visiting dog allows them to enjoy the comfort of a pet, at least for a little while. Puppies and younger dogs are a little too exuberant to be used as therapy dogs, but when they mature they would make a great visitor to someone in a medical facility.
Therapy dog trainers say that not all dogs make good therapy dogs and that not all people make good therapy dog handlers. Therapy dog handlers receive special training so that they’ll know how to get the dog to be a polite visitor, to socialize it, and how to teach the dog not to walk up to someone who didn’t invite the dog to visit them or lick them, etc. In medical facilities, dogs are going to experience sounds, sights, and smells that they haven’t seen before, so they have to be sensitized to it.
The main reason for using dogs for therapy is to create interaction between people and the dog. If either the dog or the patient doesn’t enjoy the experience, then it is unsuccessful. When successful, therapy dogs can lift the spirits of those who are under medical care.
Additionally, dogs are being used now for therapy for patients with communication problems such as Autism. Children who have been though physical or emotional abuse may sometimes open up to a counselor if there’s a dog in the room for them to play with while they’re talking.
There are many organizations involved in therapy dogs and it’s estimated that there are now more than 10,000 human and canine members in the United States.
4 Paws For Ability is the oldest service dog provider with autism-oriented dogs. There’s been a lot of coverage in the media recently about autism service dogs, and while they’re not the best fit for everyone, for some, they work wonders… like in this case, which recently went viral and has definitely generated a lot of news