The Therapy Dog is not a service dog. The service animals are trained to do work or to perform tasks for the benefit of a personal with a disability. On the other hand, therapy animals provide animal contact to people who may or may not have disabilities. It is usually the personal pet of its handler and usually works with its handler during the sessions. Therapy Dogs do not have the legal rights to travel everywhere. The institutions must invite them. Lots of establishments have very strict prerequisites for the Therapy Dog. Many organizations offer testing and accreditation for these dogs, such as the Canine Good Citizenship Test which is an obedience test administered by the American Kennel Club.
"All over the world, major universities researching the therapeutic value of pets in our society and the number of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions are employing full-time pet therapists" – Betty White, Actress and Animal Activist.
Some educators believe that a Therapy Dog can help some students in ways that teachers and textbooks cannot. Some students have a hard time socially, but a Therapy Dog can actually help these youngsters with motivation and confidence. Anxiety can be reduced and social skills can sometimes be improved for autistic students. There are also programs in many schools to help children feel at ease to read with confidence.
These dogs provide a nonjudgmental audience for children who practice their reading while the dogs are visiting. These dogs also offer healing therapy to abused, neglected and at-risk children, nurturing their ability to love and trust. It is very beneficial to children to bring animals into a learning situation.
These wonderful dogs share their unconditional love and affection and enhance the lives of people with special needs.
Therapy dogs also help teach several other skills:
Asking for help--The Delta Society, another organization that trains therapy dogs, said that people with dogs are much more approachable; this includes authority figures such as teachers, counselors and principals.
Behavior control--Educators tell students that if the dog can behave, they can as well, and everyone in the class wants to mimic the dog’s behavior.
Memory Skills--To get the dogs to perform tasks, students have to remember a specific sequence of commands.
Higher IQ--Research shows that children who have regular contact with animals have higher IQ scores.
Tenacity--When the dogs play hide and seek with the students, it is sometimes difficult for them to locate the students. Teachers use this lesson to teach students that these dogs never give up, no matter how complicated their task.
Empathy and respect--Some children are simply not taught to have empathy or treat other living things with respect. In schools where therapy dogs are used, a majority of the students build their own relationship with the dog, which includes wanting to protect their friend. Learning not to harm animals at an early age is key in discouraging future animal abuse.
Therapy Dogs come from a variety of breeds; there is no, 'perfect,' breed or mix of breeds that make the best Therapy Dogs.
A Therapy Dog is one with a temperament that is friendly, patient, and outstanding overall.
A Therapy Dog has a desire to visit with people, loves children, and interacts with other animals well.
Therapy Dogs also interact with other dogs they encounter in positive ways.
Therapy Dogs must be on-leash obedience trained and remain under control while presenting excellent behavior. They need to have the ability to work around other dogs while remaining free of aggression. Therapy dogs are social, interacting with people in a positive manner. They enjoy being touched, petted, and held if appropriate. Therapy Dogs present a stable temperament and do not display aggression or fear. They also have the ability to stay calm in situations that are new and may involve a number of distractions.
Therapy Dogs come from a variety of breeds; there is no, 'perfect,' breed or mix of breeds that make the best Therapy Dogs. The dog must healthy, one-year of age, well-mannered, and enjoy interacting with people. If the dog fits these requirements, it might make a good Therapy Dog.
Pets and adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
As part of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients may exhibit a wide variety of behavioral problems, many related to an inability to deal with stress.
Research at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine concluded that Alzheimer's patients suffer less stress and have fewer anxious outbursts if there is a pet in the home.
Pets can provide a source of positive, nonverbal communication. The playful interaction and gentle touch from a well-trained, docile animal can help soothe an Alzheimer’s patient and decrease aggressive behavior.
In many cases a patient’s problem behavior is a reaction to the stressed response of the primary caretaker. Pets can help ease the stress of caregivers. Cats or caged animals may be more suitable than dogs, which generally require more care and can add to the burden of someone who’s already looking after an Alzheimer’s patient.
Calming Canines: The Benefits
Each dog guides its child through his or her daily routine and acts as a bridge between the child and the rest of the world. Parents whose children participated in the University of Montreal study reported a decrease in their children’s tantrums and other disruptive behaviors, as well as improvements in their performance of daily routines and participation in casual social interactions. Such service dogs reduce kids’ stress levels and increase their daily successes in a variety of ways:
Independence: Tethered to her dog, a child can walk without always holding an adult’s hand, gaining more independence and control over her actions. “The dog acts as an anchor since they’re harnessed to the child,” says Shirk. “Even if a child wants to bolt, pulling against a seventy-pound dog gives parents plenty of time to catch up.”
Positive social interactions: The animals also help improve kids’ social skills. “It gives them a reason to communicate and something appropriate to talk about,” says Shirk. Walking around with a dog gives kids a natural chance to discuss something everyone is interested in—their canine. Organizations like Paws for Ability also note that kids become more comfortable speaking to others as they get more practice talking about their pup in a variety of situations. All this bragging often results in an increased vocabulary and decreased anxiety around social interactions, and creates a social bridge for kids who are often unsure as to how they should interact with their peers.
Calming presence: Studies show that kids who have a furry friend along for their daily routine feel less pressure than when they go through the day with other people or on their own. Kids with dogs feel less anger and experience less aggression, according to Animal-assisted Interventions for Individuals with Autism, by Merope Pavlides. This also translates to improved sleeping habits, as many kids with autism suffer from insomnia, and to a reduction in the stress associated with insomnia.
Behavior disruption: “The dog can touch or nudge a child to break processes leading to repetitive behavior,” says Shirk. “They’ll snuggle or give kisses to the child. This also helps calm them instead of letting behaviors escalate into a full-blown meltdown.” Often, this light prod is all they need to redirect themselves.
Safety: For situations in which kids can’t be tethered to their dogs, like when they’re playing on a swing set, the dogs are trained in tracking. Using their sense of smell, they’re ready and able to quickly locate a scared or stressed master in a variety of environments. The dogs are able to do this much faster than a parent can, minimizing the added stress and frustration of conducting a drawn-out search for a lost child
The students who have the most trouble, the most trying struggles and the greatest difficulties tend to bond well with these therapy dogs, who offer sincere support, says Beahr. Working with a therapy dog has been shown to improve attendance, motivate speech and learning, increase self-esteem, lower blood pressure and decrease anxiety. Plus, it helps build a child's capability to love and accept himself and others.
THERAPY DOGS AND BEST PRACTICES IN READING
The use of registered therapy dogs in reading activities with children must be consistent with "best practices in literacy instruction" (Morrow, Gambrell, & Pressley, 2003). The most comprehensive of these programs is Reading Education Assistance Dogs, or R.E.A.D., which is implemented by the Intermountain Therapy Animals (www.therapyanimals.org).
Collaboration Among Personnel and Appropriate Reading Materials
Ideally, the dog handlers collaborate with the teachers, reading specialists, and librarians to understand the child's interests and identify books at the correct reading level. Often, the child arrives at the session with several appropriate high-quality books that the team recommends for the particular child; this careful match between book and child, as well as the opportunity to choose, are supported by reading research (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2003)...
Therapy dogs function in two ways. Sometimes they work with a healthcare provider and take an active part in patient treatment — like Silvija, a 5-year-old mix of golden retriever and Labrador that works with Amy Johnson, a speech-language pathologist in South Pasadena. Silvija's job is to motivate, reward and interact with patients, Johnson says. For example, "for one little girl, getting a simple word out is a big deal. But she has to vocalize if she wants to get Silvija to go through my plastic tunnel."
Other times therapy dogs and their human partners simply engage in so-called animal-assisted activities — for example, they drop by a patient's room just to say hello (the human) and lie on the patient's bed for a while (the dog)."We all benefit from being with our own animals," says Bill Kueser, vice president of marketing for the Delta Society. "And we share this benefit when we share our animals with people who can't have them themselves."
"A lot of times, kids talk directly to the dog," he said. "They're kind of like counselors with fur. They have excellent listening skills, and they demonstrate unconditional love. They don't judge you or talk back."
The dogs are also used to reassure victims of natural disasters—most recently, Superstorm Sandy—and to brighten the days of nursing home patients. Hetzner said he got the idea after seeing how well students responded to therapy dogs in the wake of a 2008 school shooting at Northern Illinois University. Now, in addition to the core of 15 that make up LCC's K9 Comfort Dogs team, the group has deployed about 20 other dogs to be based in schools and churches that apply for them.
What is a "Therapy Dog"?
There are three different types of therapy dogs:
The first and most common are "Therapeutic Visitation" dogs. These dogs are household pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, detention facilities, and rehabilitation facilities. Visitation dogs help people who have to be away from home due to mental or physical illness or court order. These people miss their pets, and a visit from a visitation dog can brighten the day, lift spirits,
and help motivate them in their therapy or treatment with the goal of going home to see their own pets.
The second type of therapy dog is called an "Animal Assisted Therapy" dog. These dogs assist physical and occupational therapists in meeting goals important to a person's recovery. Tasks that a dog can help achieve include gaining motion in limbs, fine motor control, or regaining pet care skills for caring for pets at home. Animal Assisted Therapy dogs usually work in rehabilitation facilities.
The last type of therapy dog is called a "Facility Therapy Dog". These dogs primarily work in nursing homes and are often trained to help keep patients with Alzheimer's disease or other mental illness from getting into trouble. They are handled by a trained member of the staff and live at the facility.
According to Holbert, in the late 1980s and early 1990s similar organizations started training and providing social dogs to live in facilities--mostly in skilled care facilities and group homes for the elderly.
Research suggested that dogs lowered blood pressure, and senior citizens who owned dogs lived longer with fewer health problems. People suffering from Alzheimer's disease could also relate to dogs; many recalled the best friends of their youth and became happier when given access to a dog once again.