Does Your Dog Have What it Takes to Be a Therapy Dog?

Do people routinely tell you how wonderful your dog is? If you are used to hearing “You have the best dog in the world!”, and you’re interested in sharing your dog with others who may benefit from your dog’s sweetness, perhaps you should consider therapy dog training! After all, what better way to spread the happiness and comfort that your dog brings than taking your sweet pup into a hospital or to a senior center where there are people who would appreciate a visit from a special four-legged companion?

Anyone who owns a dog knows how much this special bond adds to their quality of life, and there’s science to back it up. Recently, therapy dogs have been recognized by the scientific community for the health and healing benefits that they offer. Studies show that simply petting a dog stimulates the release of “feel good” neurochemicals, and contributes to lowered blood pressure, less depression, and an overall reduction in stress. There are numerous ways that therapy dogs can provide support, companionship, hope, and other health benefits to help people heal from both physical and psychological ailments. 

What is a Therapy Dog?

Unlike a service dog, which is specifically trained to provide a set of services for an individual with specific needs, therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort and companionship for individuals who are in an institutionalized setting, such as a hospital or nursing home. Over the past several years, therapy dogs have become more common in other public places where people often need some cheering-up by a visit with a sweet and friendly canine.

Some examples of the amazing ways therapy dogs touch the lives of those they come into contact with include: 

  • Elevating the mood of patients in hospitals and nursing homes. 
  • Reducing anxious feelings in airports, schools, and other settings. 
  • Providing social and emotional support to individuals with a variety of ailments.
  • Reducing the stress and anxiety that often accompany physical and mental disorders.

Therapy Dog Credentials

A dog of any breed or age can become a therapy dog, provided they have the right personality traits, are well trained, and consistently and reliably demonstrate exemplary behavior. Therapy dogs should be:

  • Calm
  • Reliably friendly towards strangers
  • Well-socialized around children and adults
  • Highly responsive to basic obedience commands
  • Highly adaptable to new environments, noise, smells, and other novel stimuli

Most therapy dog organizations also require that dogs be in excellent health, fully vaccinated and undergo routine physical examinations with their veterinarian. They must also be clean and well-groomed at the time of their visits.

If you think your dog has what it takes to become a therapy dog, your team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center has some suggestions on how to get started.

Team Training

Since there’s a lot more to becoming a therapy dog than just knowing that you have a great dog, it’s important to understand the requirements and steps involved. Now comes the serious preparation and team training, as it’s not just your dog entering into a hospital, nursing home, library, or school – you’ll be there, too – so you both need to be a well-functioning team.

  • The first step for most therapy dog training protocols is for the dog to have gone through a basic obedience training class and graduated with flying colors.
  • Next, comes taking and passing the AKC Good Citizen Program, and lots of practice to make sure your dog has mastered its obedience skills in a variety of public settings and other real-life situations. 
  • Step three involves either enrolling in a therapy dog training course or a dedicated home training program. A therapy dog should be extremely responsive to its handler, and be able to stay calm and happy despite loud noises, abrupt movement, medical or other equipment, the attention of strangers, and any other distraction that may occur.
  • In order to become an animal-assisted therapy team, you and your dog must successfully pass a final evaluation, be certified, and registered with a national therapy dog organization.

Finally, remember that our goal is to help your pet have a healthy and long life with you, so don’t forget the wellness examinations, vaccinations, and parasite prevention! As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions and concerns regarding your pet’s well-being.

The Reverse Sneeze: What It Is And When To Worry

You are minding your own business, when out of nowhere comes the odd, surprising, and utterly weird sound of honking or wheezy snorting from your dog. You run to your pet’s aid, only to discover that he or she is perfectly fine, standing there as though nothing has happened. But what did happen? Do you call us or drop everything and rush your pet in as an emergency?

It is likely that what your pet just experienced is known as paroxysmal respiration, more commonly called “reverse sneezing”. Hearing a reverse sneeze can certainly be alarming, but it’s often a normal occurrence for a dog or cat. 

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Understanding TPLO Surgery In Dogs

Was your dog running happily through the yard one minute, then limping and unable to put weight on one of its rear legs the next? Or, have you watched your older dog become less active due to a gradual deterioration in one of its knees, a problem that you know is affecting your dog’s quality of life? 

A torn cranial cruciate ligament (called CCL in pets and ACL in humans) may be to blame. This is a common problem in dogs and, in many cases, requires surgery to correct and to prevent further damage to the knee joint as time goes on.

Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery is one of the most widely used procedures for repairing a torn CCL in dogs (and sometimes cats). At Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, we are fortunate to have a skilled and certified TPLO surgeon on our medical team who has helped hundreds of dogs return to an active life through TPLO surgery. Since we have seen so many successful results with this procedure, we thought it important to explain what TPLO surgery is, why it’s so effective, and offer tips for supporting your dog’s orthopedic health after TPLO surgery.

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Splish Splash: Where Should Your Dog Swim?

For dogs that love the water, going for a swim on a hot day is a real treat and one of the best parts of summer! However, finding a safe place for your pooch to splash around in is another issue entirely. Should your dog swim in a chlorinated pool? What about a local lake or river? Is it safer to just fill up a kiddie pool in the backyard?   

At Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, we want pets to get plenty of exercise and bonding time with their owners. With careful observation, appropriate safety measures, and a little common sense, you might find swimming to be an enjoyable activity for you and your furry pal!

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Dog Parks: Are They Right For Your Dog?

It sounds like a great idea – take your dog to a large, fenced-in area where it can run free with other canine friends. You get to skip the daily walk, check your email, maybe chat with other dog owners, then leave with an exhausted-but-happy dog. What could be better?

Dog parks can be big on the convenience factor for us humans, but being in close proximity to lots of other dogs can also present some problems for your dog. Before taking your pup to the park, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons, so we at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center have some important points for you to consider.

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Differently-Abled, Definitely Wonderful: Dispelling Deaf Dog Myths

Caring for a deaf dog can live a long and happy life. There’s something special about dogs. Perhaps it’s their unwavering loyalty and devotion or their unique ability to read our emotions and body language. Maybe it’s the way they inspire joy in our lives every single day. Whatever the case, the bond between human and canine is awe-inspiring.

When most of us look at our dogs, we only see their inner light, and this is never more apparent than with deaf dogs. Unfortunately, deaf dog myths abound in our culture, but in reality, dogs of any ability level can lead happy, productive lives. At Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, we’ve set out to dispel the top 5 deaf dog myths and to show our readers what these often misunderstood pets can do. Continue…

Keeping Illness at Bay with Pet Vaccinations

Pet vaccinations are designed to protect your pet against infectious diseases that could be fatal or greatly reduce your pet’s quality of life.Most of us know that our pets need to be vaccinated, and when we follow through with their regular wellness exams, this is usually done during the exam within the appropriate time frame. Knowing which vaccines your pet needs, however, as well as why and when, isn’t always something that’s widely understood by pet owners.

Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month, we at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center can’t think of a better time to discuss this important component of pet care.

Core and More

Pet vaccinations are designed to protect your pet against infectious diseases that could be fatal or greatly reduce your pet’s quality of life. Some are mandatory and some not. To add to the confusion, they’re not all given on the same schedule or at the same time.

Vaccines are categorized into two major groups as follows:   Continue…

Leaps and Bounds: Dog Running Safety 101

Dog running safety is key to safe pet exerciseFitness buffs, competitive racers, and those of us just looking to stay in shape know that running is one of the best ways to achieve our cardiorespiratory fitness goals. Running continues to be one of the most popular sports worldwide (currently practiced by over 65 million Americans), and shows no signs of slowing down.

For dog owners with energetic canines, bringing Fido along on your daily run can make good sense and be quite enjoyable. Regular exercise helps dogs stay fit, and can reduce anxiety and undesirable behaviors. However, keeping your dog out of harm’s way is extremely important when undertaking any exercise program together, so it’s a good idea to think about running safely with your dog before you lace up your shoes and grab the leash (and those baggies!). Continue…

A Brave New (Pain Free) World: All About CBD Oil for Pets

CBD oil for petsIn 2000, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Since then, many other states have followed suit (29 to be exact). Nine states (including Colorado) have legalized its recreational use, as well.

What does this have to do with pets? More than you may realize. Not only have cases of marijuana toxicity in pets increased since marijuana laws began passing, but pet owners have also been turning to marijuana to try and help their pets with a variety of medical issues. Specifically, they’re seeking the oil extracted from the hemp plant, called cannabidiol oil (CBD oil) to treat their pet’s pain and other ailments.

The use of CBD oil for pets is growing in popularity, but is it right for your pet?

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You Hold The Key: The Link Between Kindness And Pet Well-Being

pet well-beingGertrude Weaver of Arkansas was 116 years old when she died in 2015. As the oldest living person at the time of her death, she attributed her longevity to a healthy lifestyle and a good dose of kindness and compassion toward others. Weaver’s motto was “Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you.”

Plenty of studies back up Ms. Weaver’s claim that kindness is a key to well-being, and for most of us, our kindness and considerations extend beyond our two-legged friends and toward the four-legged friends also in our lives.

We know that the pet well-being is improved with good medical care, disease prevention and proper diet, but can it be enhanced by kindness? We certainly think so, because kindness offers the emotional support that pets also need, including, compassion and empathy. These, in turn, provide security and a sense of belonging, which ultimately leads to contentment.

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