Archive for the ‘Therapy Animal’ Category

Is the following true for your dog? Around people and other dogs, your dog is amiable and well-behaved. Your dog adores hugs and likes to cuddle for long periods. When surrounded by new people, your dog remains calm. Your dog gives you feelings of warmth and contentment that you’d like to share with others. If you’ve answered “Yes!” to these questions, your dog might make an excellent therapy dog

What is a Therapy Dog? 

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a therapy dog visits facilities or settings which care for people with emotional, mental, or physical concerns. For example, many nursing homes have visits from therapy dogs to help provide affection and engage their residents. Hospitals may allow scheduled therapy dog visits to boost the patient’s spirits. Therapy dogs can also help first responders overcome stressful situations or lift emotions during a time of crisis. In short, therapy dogs provide comfort to people who need it the most. 

Therapy dogs are not service dogs or emotional support animals (ESA). Service dogs have public access privileges under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal laws. These dogs receive months of specialized training to performs necessary tasks to assist their disabled handler. Emotional support animals, which require an ESA letter, are also covered under specific federal laws but don’t need training. ESAs simply comfort their handlers with their presence.

How a Therapy Dog Works

You’ve probably noticed how your dog can make you feel loved, less stressed, and much more relaxed. Therapy dogs do the same thing, but for others. By interacting with other people, therapy dogs are scientifically proven to do the following for humans: 

Reduce physical pain Release “feel good” hormones like oxytocin, endorphins, and phenylethylamine Lower stress hormones like cortisol Reduce feelings of anxiety, aggression, and fear Trained to interact with a variety of people Usually have stable temperaments and have a friendly, easy-going personality Help provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handler Can’t All Dogs be Therapy Dogs? 

As cute as all dogs are, being a therapy dogs takes a special kind of dog. Because therapy dogs visit different healthcare facilities and may need to interact with numerous strangers, a therapy dog must be safe at all times. A therapy dog should have the following traits: 

Naturally friendly and affectionate with everyone Enjoys meeting new people  Comfortable in new environments Relaxed and doesn’t get startled easily Likes physical affection Able to sit and be petted for long periods Enjoys and is safe with children Healthy, well-groomed, and has regular check-ups and vaccinations

A dog who is calm and sweet in the family home, but is wary in new environments, may not be an ideal candidate to become a therapy dog.

A dog can become a therapy dog if it has a friendly personality and is safe around people of all ages. Therapy Dog Training and Certification

Although a therapy dog doesn’t need the extensive training that a service dog does, they require some instruction level. You can choose to train your dog or outsource the training to a formal organization. The American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test is an excellent guideline for training. A therapy dog must pass necessary real-world scenario behavioral tests to ensure that they will be safe in a new environment. 

The facilities a therapy dog visits will usually require certification and health-check to visit. The American Kennel Club recommends the few recognized therapy dog organizations on their website to certify with. To become certified, an observer or tester in your area will test you and your dog on handling skills, basic social behaviors, and demeanor. They will also observe you and your dog on visits to medical facilities. 

Where Can a Certified Therapy Dog Go? 

Unlike a service dog or ESA, a certified therapy dog is only allowed in places where they perform their jobs; hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities, etc. Therapy dogs don’t have public access and are considered pets when traveling, looking for housing, or entering places of business. 

A therapy dog also can’t walk into a hospital or nursing home unannounced. Typically, arrangements with the facility are made beforehand, ensuring that the therapy dog is safe and certified. Furthermore, the facility schedules an allotted time to allow for therapy dog visits. During this time, the handler is present overseeing interactions. 

Can Your Dog be a Therapy Dog? 

Your dog doesn’t need to be the Albert Einstein of dogs to be a therapy dog. All they need is a great temperament, a friendly attitude, and be safe in new environments. Your dog should be a people-person, healthy, and respond quickly to your commands. If your dog meets the criteria above and can become certified, your dog can indeed take on the noble task of being a therapy dog. 

Although they both offer vital services, a service dog and a therapy dog are not the same. These two types of dogs are not afforded the same federal rights to public access under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They provide very different services for people. On rare occasions, however, a Service Dog can also be a Therapy Dog. But to understand why this is not a common situation, we first need to clarify the differences between a service dog and a therapy dog. 

What is a Service Dog? 

The ADA defines service dogs as dogs trained to work or complete tasks for people with a disability. The work that a service dog performs must directly relate to their owner’s disability. In the case of service dogs, their presence is protected under federal law

As examples, service dogs may function as guides for people who are visually impaired or pull a wheelchair for someone with mobility problems. Some service dogs obtain life-saving medication when their diabetic owners are incapacitated. The tasks that service dogs fulfill are activities that a person with a disability would not be able to do independently, thus making a service dog an essential part of their daily life. 

What is a Therapy Dog? 

A therapy dog accompanies its owners to hospitals, schools, or nursing facilities to provide the general service of providing comfort, affection, and a sense of well-being. Although a therapy dog has an owner, they help other people by spending time interacting with them. Many hospitals now have therapy dogs to help ease the pain and anxiety of being in a hospital. These therapy dogs spend time with various patients, serving to make their time there a little brighter. 

Research shows that the presence of animals can reduce stress and change physiological responses, like lower blood pressure and heart rate. Therapy dogs not only bring affection, but they may improve the physical well-being of patients, making them more likely to recover from illness. 

A therapy dog seeks to interact with other people to give them comfort and joy. A Service Dog and Therapy Dog

Because service dogs provide an essential service to their owner, they’re almost always on the job. Service dogs receive training to be alert to the needs of their owner and to perform particular tasks. This extreme focus is why it is generally frowned upon to pet or engage with a service dog that doesn’t belong to you. Interacting with a service dog can distract them from doing their jobs well, which might endanger their owner. 

Therapy dogs, however, are continually interacting when they do their jobs. They approach various people in hospitals and schools and allow these people to pet and cuddle with them. This interaction is the opposite of the strict concentration that a service dog requires. 

Despite the significant differences between a service dog and a therapy dog, a dog can technically be both. However, it takes a very talented—and extremely patient—dog to fulfill both roles. 

Difference between service dog, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs Serving as Both

In rare instances, a highly intelligent and well-trained service dog can function as a therapy dog. A service dog trained to assist their owner with mobility issues, for example, can work as a therapy dog when the owner is sitting. When the owner is at rest and doesn’t require help, the service dog can attend to other people as a therapy dog. 

Because being both a service dog and a therapy dog requires a particular awareness of the needed roles, a dog performing both functions needs to gauge situations appropriately. This switch in behavior demands a level of intelligence that most dogs don’t possess. 

An Issue of Safety

Working as both a service dog and a therapy dog also creates some safety concerns that must be addressed. The leashes, harnesses, and other equipment that help a service dog fulfill their task might not be conducive to the therapy dog environment. Another safety consideration is the needs of the service dog owner. Service dogs should always be capable of fulfilling their duty as service dogs. The role of therapy must come secondary.

A service dog should focus on their owner’s well-being and not be distracted by others. In Summary

Can a service dog function as a therapy dog? Yes, but with considerations. The environment should be safe for the service dog owner, the dog, and the people around them. Service dogs must be aware and trained to fulfill both roles, and the safety of the service dog owner should never be compromised. It takes an exceptional dog to fulfill both roles, and you’d be fortunate to have one! 

According to the American Disabilities Act, or ADA for short, service animals must be trained to work or perform tasks for a disabled person to qualify as a service animal. PTSD dogs are a type of service dog that specializes in handling a person with any significant trauma. These dogs have rights to all public access areas and are individually trained to work with people with PTSD. Trainers authorized by Assistance Dogs International and organizations that follow the standards set by the ADI train these dogs with specific requirements in mind. Each dog is trained according to these standards, and those who will work with people with PTSD will need additional training according to the person’s needs. These dogs provide a lifetime of support, helping ease people with PTSD. What kind of services do PTSD Dogs provide? Service dogs handle people with disabilities by acting concerning that person’s needs, whether that person is blind, deaf, or severely disabled. PTSD Dogs bring a sense of love, provide good companionship, take orders when trained, help reduce stress, and help the individual meet new people. These dogs can individually act, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, by:

Assisting in medical crises Assisting in treatment by subtle reminders Giving the individual a sense of security Helping the individual handle emotional trauma through companionship

According to researchers in the Department of Defense, this is believed to be caused by the presence of oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes bonding and trust, as it occurs when people come in contact with babies, dogs, and other cute creatures. This boost of oxytocin can help people living with PTSD by putting them at ease and making them more responsive to therapy as a result. PTSD dogs can be beneficial, but whether or not these dogs align with emotional support dogs is still being questioned, according to the VA.

How effective are PTSD Service Dogs at treating PTSD? Many studies related to service dogs show the benefits service dogs have regarding physical disabilities. However, studies on how beneficial service dogs are for mental health are still being determined through various studies. For instance, studies from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense suggest that service dogs can benefit traumatized soldiers. However, those results come with limited validation, and future trails can only further help negate the questions that remain and give a better understanding of the psychology of how PTSD dogs treat people with PTSD. Studies from Purdue University show that there is a lack of empirical research on the effectiveness of PTSD service dogs, resulting in mixed model results. However, the conclusion of the study proved that PTSD dogs could serve as a “meaningful improvement” for those with PTSD. Are PTSD Dogs just for Veterans?

A service dog can be any breed. You can either train your own service dog or work with an accredited trainer.

Most studies involving PTSD dogs centralize around veterans. However, experts in the field state that these service dogs can be beneficial for those with non-military related PTSD, including sexual-assault victims and those who have experienced significant traumas such as car accidents and accidental fires. However, official studies have been limited in results and need further trials to prove useful. While the ADI has specific instructions for military veterans to gain access to service dogs, those who are non-military can apply for a service dog through any approved service dog training organization that has taken the ADI standardization test. You can also adopt a dog from a shelter and train them yourself to provide a service for your disability if you do not have the means to apply through a service dog training organization.  Even with the research involving veterans, PTSD dogs don’t earn the same VA coverage as other service dogs would. While the VA covers veterinary care for service dogs that assist veterans with physical disabilities, the VA doesn’t do that for PTSD service dogs. Any treatment within the VA only includes therapies such as exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, and desensitization therapy. As for others with PTSD, those who have the medical documentation can receive a specially trained service dog for PTSD through applying at any chosen trainer organization. How do I gain a PTSD Dog? Any service dog, including PTSD service dogs, follow under the guidelines of the ADA, which state that service dogs have legal access to all public areas as long as they are appropriately leashed and controlled by their handler. PTSD service dogs usually cost on average $20,000 or more, depending on the organization, and finding the right organization to purchase a service dog can be difficult due to the lack of federal regulation on training and accreditation. While the ADI does not provide trained service dogs, it only provides guidelines for trainers and individuals to follow and a database for accredited members to search. Once you find the right organization or trainer for you, you can go through their application process and work with the trainers to help you find the service dog for you. You may also train your dog yourself if you are unable to pay the fees to specially train your dog through a trainer.