Posts Tagged ‘therapy animal’

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! 

What do you need to know about Therapy Dogs:

Dogs can have a beneficial impact on the people around them, whether they serve an individual as a service dog, provide support as an emotional support dog, or bring comfort as a therapy dog. Here are some of the differences between these types of dogs:

Service Dogs – Service dogs, defined under the ADA, are individually trained to work and perform tasks for a person with a disability. These dogs are covered under the ADA’s rights, meaning they can be brought into public establishments and live with their disabled owner even when a “no pets” policy is in place. Emotional Support Dogs – Emotional support dogs are the middle ground between service dogs and therapy dogs. These dogs provide emotional support through companionship and can be trained for a specific owner, but are not explicitly trained for people with disabilities. These dogs help relieve loneliness, depression, anxieties, and phobias. However, they are not covered under the ADA’s rights to bring animals into public establishments but can live with their disabled owner even if there is a “no pets” policy. Therapy Dogs – Therapy dogs bring emotional support through long-term care in places such as hospitals, retirement homes, schools, mental health institutions. These dogs are not covered under the ADA and are usually brought into institutions through a non-profit organization. Therapy dogs can handle various environments and bring comfort to many people in clinical, and learning settings and typically are trained, licensed, and insured under an organization.

Hence, the validation of what constitutes a therapy dog has a specific definition, but in regards to legal rights, those rights can vary. According to the Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, there is a lack of objective data regarding the public’s ability to understand these animal’s roles as well as the animal’s legitimacy concerning rules and regulations overlooking them. Governing documents and company policies all have different definitions of therapy dogs and how they interact with public spaces.  The JERPH states that no specific laws governing therapy animals. Thus, this leaves the rules regarding therapy animals lacking in definition and can also lead to loopholes about how therapy dogs interact with the world.

What do laws and policies state about Therapy Dogs? According to the Fair Housing Act, the act follows the ADA guidelines regarding service animals and thus uses the term “assistance animal” as a way to ensure housing providers of their obligations, labeling the terms “service animal,” “support animals” and “therapy animals” within that definition. While the FHA defines therapy dogs under the term “assistance,” the FHA allows housing providers to refuse access for therapy dogs onto their property but will allow service dogs to gain access to public spaces because of their rights under the ADA. Emotional support animals have access to housing, in spite of no-pets policies under the FHA. 

In the state of New York, a report issued in 2018, concluded that there are no national or statewide standards regarding training, evaluation, certification, and identification of therapy dogs. It also states that there is “confusion regarding the rights and responsibilities of [owners of] therapy dogs [and] emotional support dogs.” Hence, in its conclusion, it states that it recommends the development of those standards so it can benefit the public, their dogs, and organizations, also suggesting that therapy dogs should be licensed and identified by therapy dog tags and other accessories and should have liability insurance as part of their coverage. Another organization, Assistance Dogs International, follows the ADA guidelines in regards to service animals, but does not explicitly define the difference between service, emotional support, and therapy dogs, also using the classification assistance dogs as an overarching term. The ADI’s standards apply more so to people with disabilities, stating that whether the disability is physical or mental, the animal must be individually trained for specific tasks for that person to be considered a service dog and be given ADA rights. Thus, the ADI only provides training standards for service animal trainers and organizations, excluding emotional support dogs and therapy dogs from those standards. Unlike governing policies and accreditation organizations, companies like IHOP help define therapy dogs and the boundaries for these kinds of assistance animals. According to IHOP’s policy, therapy dogs are trained, certified, and insured to work in institutions to help educate a community, provide comfort, and act as animal ambassadors for their local community. They also state that therapy dogs do not fall under the ADA regulation and have no rights to public access. Hence, if a therapy dog were to try and gain public access to an IHOP restaurant, they would not be allowed to unless otherwise allowed by the owner of the establishment.

How can Therapy Dogs get certified?

The American Kennel Club, while does not certify therapy dogs, provides their training programs for organizations to use to be able to verify their dog as a therapy dog. The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is considered to be a prerequisite, which includes the 10-step CGC test as a way for their dogs to get acquainted with basic dog training requirements. The AKC also offers title awards in their AKC Therapy Dog™ program, which allows the organization to recognize dogs for excellent service and meet requirements needed by their AKC approved training organization.

Approved organizations, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs, have their own set of standards for those wishing to turn their dogs into therapy dogs, which includes finding a certified tester to test the dog’s basic training and demeanor. Once the dog goes through a few test runs supervised by the examiner in medical facilities, the person can apply and approve their animal. ATD members then must follow the organization’s guidelines, which includes the ATD providing liability insurance, dog health requirements, grooming requirements, dog equipment, and safety precautions.

If you would like to register your therapy dog online, you may do so here. You can also order your identification card and therapy dog vest while registering your therapy animal. Although not legally required, having a therapy animal identification card and vest can be useful when identifying your animal as a therapy animal in public.

Can my dog become a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs can be any breed of dog, as the primary purpose of therapy dogs is to provide people with companionship and comfort. Hence, therapy dogs must be able to enjoy the company of people of all ages and be comfortable being touched. The AKC has their own outlined qualities, including:

The dog must have an undiscriminating love for the people he/she meets Have a willingness to meet new people Have a calm demeanor Have a high tolerance for physical discomfort Must not get easily scared by loud noises and sudden movements

When it comes to therapy dogs in public spaces, therapy dogs can only be allowed in open areas when that public space has a therapy dog program or is permitted by the official representative of that organization/company, according to the ATD. Because these dogs can bring support in care and education facilities, therapy dogs can They also states that the presence of a therapy dog can be overall beneficial to the people around them. The ATD says that animal-assisted therapy helps people relax by releasing serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin in the brain, reducing loneliness, providing comfort, and creating a distraction as a result. Physically, therapy dogs can lower blood pressure, diminish physical pain, motivate people, and help with social interaction. Because these dogs are not generally allocated to a disabled owner, these dogs can be specially trained to support more than one person through any situation.