Canine Best Friend & Therapist?
When I adopted Tito never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate he would become the type of dog that would be suited to support others in transitions, challenges and personal journeys. But slowly after he out grew his puppy, teenage and young adult stages and matured his true inner beauty and kind heart emerged. Now looking at my dogs Aine and Tucker, I can see their inner healers boldly shining. Aine, of course the gentle soul was born ready to be a Pet Therapist and was able to officially wear her vest by the end of August 2010; whereas Tucker has taken more than just a few years to mature before stepping into this roll but I’m still patient it will come for him.
When you look at your dog – do see ‘just’ a dog or do you see a ‘healer’? If you want to spread some happiness through your friendly and loving pet then it truly begins with you. Your intention and attitude towards your dog will empower them to expose this healing side sooner rather than later or sadly never.
Pet therapy is believed to work wonders for children with special needs and people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Pet therapy in fact is also believed to be an excellent technique for dealing with stress. So, if you want your pet to spread a little more love and happiness, here’s a few tips I’ve learned along with way that may be beneficial to you:
The first thing that you need to make sure of is that you are supportive of having your pet be a therapist. This is not as easy as it sounds as it involves training and time on your part as well as your pets. You need to know your pet may not be ready for therapy work until he is much older. Rarely are dogs “therapy ready” at young ages just as children need to go through their stages so do dogs. This is the part where you need to be patient and stay in trust.
When getting to know your pet through this growth stages, pay attention if he is a ‘people dog’ or not. There are some dogs that are just not people friendly in strange locations or medical situations. Some dogs will grow out of this type of shyness and others won’t. This again will depend on your time – making sure you take them to public dog appropriate places to interact with different age groups and mobility. To get a true reading of your animal’s personality, be sure to make visiting new places a regular part of your life and theirs.
Training is a very important piece of making sure you give your dog the best opportunity to step into their therapy role. There are numerous dog training opportunities; research them and compare what they offer with what types of results. Sending your dog away for training with a stranger may not be in the long term best interest as you need to take a serious interest and responsibility for learning the commands along with your dog. If you are not vested in the training piece then ultimately you need to revisit the first topic I spoke about – and answer the question “Am I ready for pet therapy?” If the answer is truly no, then take a breath and don’t judge yourself. As much as it may be admirable to have your dog be a therapist, it is not for everyone. Just like not all children become doctors or teachers – we all have our talents and dogs are no different.
Additionally, you can decide whether you want to be helping people on your own or if you would like to enroll your dog in a professional pet therapy organization. The advantage of opting for the latter might be benefits like insurance and other support services. If you want to start providing pet therapy services on your own, contact your neighboring hospitals, old age homes, special schools, etc to check if they need dog’s services and what their certification requirements are.
Providing pet therapy services is extremely satisfying for both the pet and its owner. However, before you decide to spread some sunshine and smiles, make sure that your pet is comfortable with therapy work as much as you are.