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Everything You Should Know About Therapy Dog

Therapy dog with its owner and a child at a library

Therapy dogs have a big job to do, but their work doesn’t go unnoticed. These brave, brilliant, and kind dogs change lives. From visiting schools to hospitals to nursing homes, therapy dogs bring joy to lives. These remarkable doggos deserve a round of appaws for their selfless service to humans.

If you’ve ever wondered what therapy dogs do or if your dog could qualify, we have the answers you’re looking for.  

What Do Therapy Dogs Do?

After training, therapy dogs spend time with people to provide psychological or physiological benefits. Therapy dogs often work in environments where people could use a ‘pick-me-up,’ such as hospitals, hospices, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. However, therapy dogs also work at places where people could simply use a bit of company or encouragement, such as schools, daycares, and libraries. 

Their primary goal is to alleviate mental stress, depression, and anxiety. Many people refer to therapy dogs as “comfort dogs” because of the comfort they provide people. But they can also serve as a helper should someone need a little physical encouragement.

How Do Therapy Dogs Help People?

Therapy dogs aren’t just there for show. They have a profound effect on people. Studies show that spending time with a therapy dog can:

      • Increase endorphins
      • Decrease stress hormones
      • Reduce blood pressure

Therapy dogs also help people

      • Build trust
      • Form relationships for enjoyment
      • Form boundaries
      • Improve their self-esteem

Are Therapy Dogs The Same As Emotional Support Dogs?

No. Emotional support animals provide their owners with assistance, rather than strangers. Emotional support dogs often do not undergo specific training to care for their owners’ needs. Therapy dogs must go through training to respond to a wide variety of environmental conditions, situations, and personalities. 

Are Therapy Dogs The Same As Service Dogs?

No, service dogs and therapy dogs both perform jobs for people. However, service dogs perform quantifiable tasks for their owners. Many service dogs work with one owner who has a specific physical, sensory, developmental, or psychiatric disability. Their goal is to help their owner live life with more independence. Seeing-eye dogs are one of the most recognisable service dogs. 

What Do Therapy Dogs Need To Know?

A therapy dog working with a child with a diability

A therapy dog needs to know how to behave around a variety of people in differing environments. They also need to be well-trained in basic obedience, including recall, leave it, sit, stay, and loose lead walking. Most important, the dog needs to have the right temperament. They need to remain calm in all circumstances and never jump up on a person or surface they shouldn’t be on.

There are many places throughout Australia that offer therapy dog certification. Of course, these training programs are designed to help therapy dog handlers, as well. Through the certification process, dogs and their handlers learn the theory behind therapy dog work.

This certification offers facilities confidence that a therapy dog will perform its job while staying under control. Keep in mind, while most places will not allow an uncertified dog to volunteer, there is no legal requirement in Australia when it comes to labeling a dog a therapy dog, according to the Dog Act of 1976.

What Is The Most Important Factor When Considering If Your Dog Can Be a Therapy Dog?

The most important factor to consider when it comes to committing your dog to the training required for therapy dogs is the amount of time certification and volunteering can take. Most full certification courses take about 9 months to a year for a dog to complete. Many require that you and your dog attend several times per week.

Additionally, certification courses can be quite costly, and there is no guarantee your dog will pass all of its certification exams.

What Can My Dog Do As A Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog with an elderly woman

If your dog becomes a therapy dog, you and your dog can visit those in need. They can perform tasks as basic as providing a friendly face to being a companion to children learning to read. Many people in care facilities enjoy being able to chat with therapy dogs and pet them.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Therapy Dogs?

There are not many drawbacks for dogs when it comes to working as therapy dogs. However, sometimes the patients they help can experience disadvantages, including:

      • Allergy-related issues
      • Attachment and sadness after the dog leaves
      • Distraction from the task-at-hand
      • Accidental injury

Therapy Dogs: A Delight to Others & Their Owners

Most therapy dog owners report that their dogs enjoy the work they do. Most say that their dogs glow while providing people with joy. Giving back also has a profound effect on therapy dog owners, and most feel a lot of pride and a deeper connection with their dogs as they progress through their certifications. There is one thing that is undeniable when it comes to therapy dogs: the work they do is priceless.