22 Jan 11

Pet Therapy ...

by Pamela Fitzpatrick, of YourDogWalkers, shihtzu58@optonline.net

Pet Therapy

Have you resolved to do something for someone else in 2011?  Maybe you and your dog can team up – if your dog has the right temperament, he or she may be able to be a therapy dog!  Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and affection to anyone in need: people in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, special needs schools and more can all benefit.

Dogs of any size or breed can be a therapy dog.  The single most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A therapy dog must be patient, friendly, calm, confident, gentle, and comfortable in all situations. Therapy dogs are “people” dogs; happiest when they are in contact with people (familiar or unfamiliar), petted and handled, albeit sometimes clumsily.

Therapy dogs are trained to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with them, and most recipients enjoy the contact! Children in particular enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog might need to be lifted onto, or climb onto, an individual’s lap or bed when invited and should be able to sit or lie comfortably there upon command. Some therapy dogs contribute to the visiting experience by performing small tricks for their audience or by playing carefully structured games.

My friends Chris and Cynthia Buckley live in Colorado and have a gorgeous Goldendoodle named Custer who recently qualified as a therapy dog.  Custer went through a rigorous training program through Pet Partners, which is sponsored by the national Delta Society and now regularly visits residents of a local senior living center.  In addition to basic obedience, Custer learned not to react to loud noises, pulls on his tail or ears, or sudden movement.  Custer’s calm temperament made him an ideal candidate for the program. Chris, Cynthia, and Custer trained for several months, and Custer passed the test last spring, earning his official Pet Partner’s Delta Registration status.  As you can imagine, Cynthia and Chris are very proud of their dog, and happy that he brings joy into the lives of others.

If you think your dog might be a good candidate for a therapy dog or just want to learn more, Long Island Dog Directory (LIdogdirectory.com) is a good place to start.  Click on the therapy tab for more info.

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