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Therapy Dogs
(Source: The Spruce)  :  Nov/12/2017 05:00:PM
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Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is the use of certified therapy animals as a part of a therapeutic plan. Pet Partners, once known as the Delta Society, has described animal assisted therapy as a “significant part of treatment for many people who are physically, socially, emotionally or cognitively challenged.”
Patients in hospitals or nursing homes often benefit from AAT, especially children and the elderly. While animals such as horses and cats can make excellent therapy animals, dogs are by far the most common type. Perhaps this is because of the unique bond that canines and humans share. Therapy dogs truly make a difference in the lives of the people they meet.
History of animal-assisted therapy: Animals, especially dogs, have been assisting humans since the beginning of recorded history. They have helped us work and provided us with companionship and lifted our spirits. However, it was not until the 20th century that animals were officially recognized for their therapeutic abilities.
In 1976, Elaine Smith founded Therapy Dogs International, the first registry for therapy dogs in the US. One year later, the Delta Foundation (later named Delta Society, now known as Pet Partners) was formed to research the effects that animals have on people’s lives. Today, these two groups, along with many others, help provide therapy animals to people in need of AAT.
How therapy dogs make a difference: Animal assisted therapy teams consist of a certified therapy animal and a trained handler. Therapy teams visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers, children’s homes and other similar facilities to help lift spirits and facilitate recovery.
Therapy dogs visit with the sick and elderly, sometimes simply sitting by the person’s side and patiently being petted. AAT patients may walk therapy dogs, play with them, feed them or groom them. Some therapy dogs are trained to sit quietly and attentively while children read to them. Many therapy dogs have their own disabilities or limitations and serve as an inspiration to humans with disabilities.
Qualities of an ideal therapy dog: Dogs of any breed, size, or age may be eligible to become therapy dogs. However, not all dogs are cut out for the job. Therapy dog candidates must possess certain traits in order to qualify. Temperament is by far the most important factor. Before even entering an AAT training program, the therapy dog candidate must be friendly and non-aggressive. The dog must get along remarkably well with children, men, women, and other animals. The dog should also be confident, patient, calm, gentle and receptive to training. Socialization and a solid foundation of training are both important for all dogs and puppies. However, these are absolutely essential for a dog to be considered for a therapy program.
Therapy dogs generally work with one dedicated handler. This is often, but not always, the dog’s owner. If you want to become a therapy team with your dog, you must both complete a thorough training program. Then, you must be able to show that your dog can be relaxed, well-behaved, and responsive to you in all kinds of different public environments.
We all need someone in our lives who will make us feel happy, contented and blessed. And, can you think of anything better than an adorable pet dog to fulfill that need? Pet dogs are not only great when it comes to provide affection and companionship, certain breeds are also excellent therapy dogs for people with special needs such as individuals who are in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices etc. These dogs need to go through rigorous training to become therapy dogs. Once properly trained, they then provide specialized support in addition to unconditional love, affection and entertainment to anyone who is in need. Here is a list of dog breeds that are popular as therapy dogs:
1. Labrador Retriever
Labrador retriever is a highly versatile breed with extraordinary intelligence. They are friendly and social and are hence ideal to be trained as therapy dogs. Even Vladimir Putin owns one.
2. German Shepherd
When trained properly, German Shepherds are one of the best breeds for therapy. These dogs are often called as GSD (German Shepherd Dog). They are loyal, obedient, gentle and social. The breed is preferred for different types of work such as disability assistance, search-and-rescue, police, etc.
3. Great Danes
Great Dane’s large and imposing appearance belies its friendly nature. They are known for seeking physical affection with their owners, and the breed is often referred to as a “gentle giant”. They are generally well disposed toward other dogs, other non-canine pets, and familiar humans and generally do not exhibit extreme aggressiveness or a high prey drive. Danes make excellent therapy dogs and are introduced as puppies to therapy work at local facilities in the US. The residents look forward to visits, watch them grow up, and line up for photos at Christmas, Easter, Halloween, that become favorite wall hangings. However, if not properly socialized, a Great Dane may become fearful or aggressive towards new stimuli, such as strangers and new environments.
4. Beagle
Apart from being small in size and having a gentle demeanor, Beagle dogs are also the best therapy companions. They are active, entertaining and friendly with new people. They have hunting qualities. They are also one of the top dog breeds ideal for family homes.
5. Rottweiler
Though Rottweilers are tough in appearance, they are good for therapy work if they are trained properly. While training the Rottweiler, a constant positive support, and extensive interaction with people is required.
6. Saint Bernard
Due to their thick, fluffy coats, Saint Bernards are especially popular as therapy dogs for children. These dogs usually don’t snap or bark at children when they pull the dog’s tail or fur. Saint Bernard is incredibly protective and obedient and is also very patient.
7. Pomeranian
Elderly individuals often go for Pomeranians as these small breed dogs are extremely friendly and social. Pomeranians often take all the love and affection they can get!
8. Pug
This small breed with wrinkled skin and big, puppy-dog eyes is a people pleaser. In addition, pugs work well as therapy dogs. These dogs particularly provide comfort to children suffering from various neuro-development disorders such as autism. They are also favorable pets, if you live in a small apartment.
9. French Bulldog
French Bulldogs are adorable lap dogs and even-tempered by nature. They crave affection and are best for therapy work. These dogs are great with children as well as adults as they are very quiet and friendly companions.
10. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh Corgi, commonly known as Corgis, are excellent watch dogs. This breed provides great solace after the death of a loved one and also provides comfort when an individual is sick.

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