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:
- 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.
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.
Dealing with a dog or cat that can’t make it outdoors or to the litter box in time can be incredibly frustrating. Following your pet around, encouraging it to go in the appropriate spot, only to turn around and see a new puddle on the floor can leave even the most patient pet owner at wit’s end.
There are many possible causes for incontinence in pets, ranging from an infection or disease to a simple lack of proper house training. Exploring the potential cause is part of good preventive care and should be pursued. In cases where the cause cannot be treated, pet diapers may be the solution.Continue…
Cat owners know the unique joys and challenges of life with cats. You want the best for your cat, but sometimes figuring out what these notoriously fickle creatures want and need can feel like dancing on the tip of a pin!
Still, we adore cats at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center and we’ve seen a thing or two over the many years we’ve been taking care of our clients’ cats. We’ve come up with the top 5 things cats hate and what you, as a loving owner, can do about it!
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.Continue…
We may not speak the same language as our cats, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate effectively with us. While often appearing independent and aloof, cats are constantly communicating their mood, likes, and dislikes with us through that beautiful hind-end appendage, their tail!
When you know what to look for, a cat’s tail can be a wealth of information. With careful observation, and a little help from us at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, you’ll be understanding “cat speak” in no time!Continue…
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.Continue…
Growing up with a pet holds fond memories for many of us, and if you’re raising your own two and four-legged family, congratulations! Having a pet in the home is a wonderful experience for most children, and the benefits can be quite profound. Living with pets can promote empathy, compassion, self-esteem, nurturing skills, and a sense of responsibility.
Yet, while kids and pets make the cutest of buddies, it’s surprisingly easy for one or both of them to become injured by the other. To keep everyone safe, special care should be taken to teach a child the right ways to interact with a furry friend. With these tips from the staff at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, you can better ensure that both your animal and human kids are safe and happy.Continue…
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…
Few companion animals are as captivating as the wonderfully delightful housecat. Their beauty, grace, and mysterious nature draws us to them, even if they don’t always return our affection when or how we want them to. Cat behavior is certainly perplexing, but by making a concerted effort to deepen our understanding of their instincts and desires, we can improve our relationships with them and create happier, more harmonious lives together.
Cat Behavior: Body Language
Cat behavior can range from cute to puzzling to downright annoying. It can be challenging to interpret what our cats want, but paying attention to their body language can give us clues as to what they’re thinking. Cats tend to show their affection for humans through head butting, twitching their tails, or rubbing their cheeks or bodies against us. Meowing is generally reserved for communication with humans and may signal hunger, happiness, or a desire to play. Continue…
As kids across the country head off to college, parents aren’t the only ones feeling the sting of an empty nest. When a family member is suddenly missing from daily life, a pet can also experience the back to school blues. Also referred to as separation anxiety, the back to school blues in pets can take a toll on a their sense of security and happiness.
Fortunately, there is plenty that an attentive pet owner can do to help ease the transition that occurs when a child leaves the home. Your team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center is committed to helping you get your pet back on track!