What is a Therapy Dog?

Wednesday, April 07, 2021 12:27 PM | Cindy Kaeble (Administrator)

Cindy Kaeble, CPDT-KA

To be a Champion Team is to share the comfort and companionship of your dog with others. There are no limits to where the company of these amazing animals makes a difference. Visiting with a dog has been shown to comfort those who are separated from or have lost a beloved pet. Therapy dogs have been called to areas that have experienced natural disasters and to places where human violence has rattled the community. There are accounts of non-verbal children communicating with a dog and seemingly comatose patients reaching for them. Therapy dogs go to schools, libraries, hospitals, retirement homes and much more.

Champion Teams volunteer their time visiting others. Sharing the comfort of your dog with someone who needs them is the rewarding part. Conversations start easily as almost everyone has a story about a family pet to share or questions about your pup and their work. There will be magical moments where your heart bursts with pride watching your dog make a difference. It’s amazing to see your dog love their work and be genuinely happy to be going with you.

There is science behind the human/canine bond. Dogs desire to be close to us. Research consistently proves the idea that dogs calm us, lower our blood pressure, provide us a focus other than ourselves, join us in creating a routine, exercise with us, they just make life feel better. They also show distinct characteristics of empathy. Case closed; dogs are therapeutic in every sense of the word.

Therapy Dogs are taught by their handlers. These dedicated pet parents participate in training and work with their dogs to acclimate them to various environments, sounds, medical equipment, different people, etc. The basics like sit, down, greeting a friendly stranger, being calm around and walking past other dogs and leave-it are practiced in ever challenging environments. A successful therapy dog needs to be under control of their handler at all times and responsive to commands, especially the “leave-it” command.

Any dog can be a therapy dog. From the smallest pint of a pup to the largest lap dog. Any age is the right age to start training! A great therapy dog will be one that seeks out human contact. If they are more naturally calm, bonus, but it’s not a deal breaker. Impulse control work and maturity along with dedicated training will help with that. Once your dog has reached one year of age, they are eligible to test and when they pass be registered as an AOAL Therapy Dog.

One special note: therapy dogs are NOT considered service dogs and therefore do not have all-access rights under the ADA. Therapy dogs visit where they are invited only - belonging to an organization like AOAL is important as it provides partnerships for ongoing visits and liability insurance while on visits.  Check out our Interested in Joining Us? page for more information!

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