This is a group for Therapy Dogs handlers to share our experiences from our visits to people in need and the healing power of therapy dogs.

Members: 8
Latest Activity: Aug 13, 2010

A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, with people with learning difficulties and stressful situations such as disaster areas.

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, at ease in all situations, and gentle. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily.

A therapy dog's primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that 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 invalid's lap or bed and sit or lie comfortably there. Many dogs contribute to the visiting experience by performing small tricks for their audiences or by playing carefully structured games.

Therapy dogs are not service or assistance dogs. Service dogs directly assist humans, and have a legal right to accompany their owners in most areas. In the United States, service dogs are legally protected at the federal level by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Therapy dogs do not provide direct assistance and are not mentioned in the Americans with Disabilities Act.[1] Institutions may invite, limit, or prohibit access by therapy dogs. If allowed, many institutions have rigorous requirements for therapy dogs.

Many organizations provide testing and accreditation for therapy dogs. In the USA, some require that a dog pass the equivalent of the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test, and then add further requirements specific to the environments in which the dogs will be working. In other places, the certification is by other organizations such as St John Ambulance, the Alpha Society, Inc., Tampa, Fl., Delta Society, Bellevue, Wa and TDI, Inc., Silver Spring, WA. Typical tests might ensure that a dog can handle sudden loud or strange noises, can walk on assorted unfamiliar surfaces comfortably, are not frightened by people with canes, wheelchairs, or unusual styles of walking or moving, get along well with children and with the elderly, and so on.

History of the Therapy Dog
During World War II, under combat operations against Japanese forces on the island of New Guinea, an American soldier found a young adult Yorkshire Terrier abandoned on the battlefield. Unable to care for the dog, Corporal William Wynne bought the female "Yorkie" and named her Smoky.

Smoky's small size enabled her to become a hero by helping engineers to build an airbase at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, a crucial airfield for Allied aircraft. Early in the Luzon campaign, the Signal Corps needed to run a communication wire through a 70-foot long pipe that was eight inches in diameter. The pipe passed beneath the landing strip. Dirt had fallen through the corrugated pipe, filling as much as half of the pipe, giving Smoky only four inches of headway in some places.

Wynne tied a string (itself attached to the communication wire) to Smoky's collar and ran to the other end of the pipe and called Smoky. The little yorkie crawled her way along the 70-foot long pipe into the arms of Corporal Wynne.

Smoky’s work prevented the need to move 40 fighter aircraft while a construction detail dug up the taxiway. This would have placed them in jeopardy from enemy air bombardment. What would have been an extended construction job, was accomplished by this little dog in minutes.

Her service as a therapy dog began when Corporal Wynne was hospitalized for a jungle disease. As Wynne recovered, Wynne's Army pals brought Smoky to the hospital for a visit and to cheer the soldier up. Smoky immediately became a hit with the other wounded soldiers. Dr. Charles Mayo, of the famed Mayo Clinic, was the commanding officer who allowed Smoky to go on rounds and also permitted her to sleep with Wynne in his hospital bed for five nights. Smoky’s work as a therapy dog continued for 12 years, during and after World War II.

The establishment of a systematic approach to the use of therapy dogs is attributed to Elaine Smith, an American who worked as a registered nurse for a time in England. Smith noticed how well patients responded to visits by a certain chaplain and his canine companion, a Golden Retriever. Upon returning to the United States in 1976, Smith started a program for training dogs to visit institutions. Over the years other health care professionals have noticed the therapeutic effect of animal companionship, such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and raising spirits, and the demand for therapy dogs continues to grow. In recent years, therapy dogs have been enlisted to help children overcome speech and emotional disorders. The concept has widened to include other species, such as therapy cats, therapy rabbits, therapy birds and so on.

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves an animal with specific characteristics becoming a fundamental part of a person's treatment. Animal-assisted therapy is designed to improve the physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning of the patient, as well as provide educational and motivational effectiveness for participants[citation needed]. AAT can be provided on an individual or group basis. During AAT, therapists document records and evaluate the participant's progress.

Many kinds of animals are used in therapy, including dogs, cats, elephants, birds, dolphins, rabbits, lizards, and other small animals. Such animals are often referred to as comfort animals. AAT with horses is known specifically as equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP)[1], equine-assisted creative living (EACL), equine-assisted personal development (EAPD) or hippotherapy.

People who have pets benefit in various ways, for example, the comfort of physical contact with animals, reducing loneliness, and increased opportunities for meeting others, via the pets. In addition, caring for pets encourages nurturance, responsibility, and adherence to a daily schedule.

Improve fine motor skills.
Improve wheelchair skills.
Improve standing equilibrioception (balance)
May lower blood pressure, risk for stroke or heartattack, and decrease depression.

A 2007 meta-analysis found that animal-assisted therapy is associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in autism spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being.

Increase verbal interactions between group members.
Increase attention skills (i.e., paying attention, staying on task).
Develop leisure/recreation skills.
Increase self-esteem.
Reduce anxiety.
Reduce loneliness.

Increase vocabulary.
Aid in long- or short-term memory.
Improve knowledge of concepts, such as size, color, etc.

Improve willingness to be involved in a group activity.
Improve interactions with others.
Improve interactions with staff.

Discussion Forum

therapy dogs and service dogs 1 Reply

Started by Lynne Miller. Last reply by Hedgewitch Nov 7, 2009.

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Comment by Julieann on August 12, 2010 at 12:09am
Hello we are a Pets For Therapy group in Australia,our group was started by Yvonne Cody whose own mother was in a nursing home.Yvonnes poodle Jo Jo often accompanied her and after her mother passed away she still took Jo jo to visit the home.The group has now been going for 21 years and through out the year volunteers visit around 65 facilities.It is a great service and is loved by the dogs and people.
Comment by Maritza on December 3, 2009 at 6:32am
Hi Lynne,
What you say is sooo true! Therapy dogs know by intinct what to do and how to react. They enter a room, and by heart they know who is in need of love and comfort and go directly to that person. They know when the person needs affection and playfulness and when they just need to be quiet by the side of the person and "listen". They are so special!!
Comment by Maritza on December 3, 2009 at 6:28am
Hi Sherri!
A warm welcome to you and your wonderful girls! You should be soooooo proud of them! At our local group, we have a few dogs which are both therapy and service dogs too. Good philosophy providing your dogs with work and challenges, keep the good work!!
Comment by Hedgewitch on November 7, 2009 at 3:09am
Hello, my name is Sherri.
I wanted to take a moment to introduce my three girls and myself. We live in NC in the North West corner at the foot of the mountains on 5 acres we call Howling Hills Estate. In my blog I tell all about my adventure in picking the breed of dog I have and why we now have three of them. However, I do not yet explain much about each girl individually.

Mali is a medical alert and mobility service dog.
Rani is a medical alert service dog, and I am looking into the possibility of her becoming a therapy dog as well.
Yuki is in training for SAR.

We are of the mindset that Shepherds need jobs, and the fact that we have ISSR Shilohs who are very intelligent means they need jobs even more. Without giving them a job just means they will make one up for themselves. (Trouble) Mali proves this to me, for when I do not leave the house and work her for a couple of day she begins to find things to do for me around the house I do not need doing.

I hope the fact I do not yet have a therapy dog will not be a problem for me in this group.
Comment by Lynne Miller on October 26, 2009 at 10:14am
I am the volunteer coordinator for the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. I am a firm believer that a therapy dog has to have the heart and the willingness to please people before they can be a good therapy training in the world can help if a dog is not interested in be loved and returning love unconditionally. That is my Dallas. He has been sharing his love and affection since a puppy of 3 months old and he proves his loving nature every time we visit. Volunteering with your dog is the best you can do for yourself and others.
Lynne and Dallas.
Comment by Michelle Kappesser on August 22, 2009 at 4:08am
Hi Linnie~

Where I work in the States (Missouri) both people who are going to visit in the settings have to go through the training in order to visit. Since I trained Chloe alone, I am not exactly sure why. There is a couple who visit the nursing home we go to, so the next time we visit I can ask them.

Chloe and I are headed to our Children's behavioral facility in about an hour. She so loves visiting the kids! I think that it's because they have as much energy as she does. Then as a treat we will go to the dog park afterwards.
Comment by Alma Febus on August 11, 2009 at 7:33pm
Maritza you are funny. I thank God that my dogs have the most wonderful aunty like you. NUMBER !!!!!!!!!!!!! or like they say in PRico NUMERO UNOOOOOOOO
Comment by Maritza on August 11, 2009 at 5:26am
Wow, that photo of Rusty is incredible! You must be very proud of him!! There are no words to describe the feeling, right? Keep the good work!
Michelle, your program and certifications sound very interesting. We are starting a Paws for Reading program this September, my only concern is if Jordan falls asleeps and starts snoring as he does when I read to him, haha.
Comment by Michelle Kappesser on August 7, 2009 at 5:43am
Where do you live? We are located in St. Louis. We were lucky to graduate with the 2nd level of certification which includes visiting adults and children in non-critical care facilities. Now that we have been visiting facilities for over 6 months (really 1/12 years), we can go back and get some more training to get re-certified to visit adults and children in the critical care facilities (like Children's Hospital). We can also go back to get re-certified to do what is called the "Paws for Reading" which sounds similar to your program. Unfortunately, with my work schedule I am not able to do this with Chloe. I teach pre-school children with various disabilities.

Chloe is actually a rat terrier/whippet mix. My other dog, Oliver, is a jack russell. He doesn't have the temperament to be a therapy dog.

How long have you been taking Rusty to the nursing homes? I have a friend who has a golden and they are wonderful dogs. I am sure that he does a wonderful job.
Comment by Michelle Kappesser on August 6, 2009 at 7:36pm
Welcome Linda. I have a certified Touch Therapy dog named Chloe. She and I visit a retirement/nursing home and a residential facility for children who were abused/neglected and/or have behavior needs.

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