TO­GETHER TIME

Want to give back to so­ci­ety to­gether with Fido? We’ve got you cov­ered with th­ese four easy steps on how to be­come a ther­apy dog vol­un­teer.

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents - BY CHRISTIANN PRIYANKA

Four sim­ple steps to be­com­ing a ther­apy dog in Sin­ga­pore.

stud­ies have shown that ther­apy dogs pro­vide both phys­i­cal and men­tal health ben­e­fits to their ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Th­ese an­i­mals have been known to stim­u­late en­dor­phin pro­duc­tion, lower blood pres­sure, re­duce pain and pro­mote re­lax­ation in hu­mans. Men­tally, they help to re­duce stress, up­lift spir­its, en­cour­age com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so­cial­i­sa­tion, com­fort, and de­crease anx­i­ety and lone­li­ness. A Ger­man Shep­herd or even a Chi­huahua can be­come one as long as it is at least a year old and has the right tem­per­a­ment. If you’d like to know how to go about reg­is­ter­ing your pooch as a ther­apy dog in Sin­ga­por, here’s a quick guide.

STEP 1: DO YOUR RE­SEARCH

Be­fore you launch head­first into sign­ing Fido up as a ther­apy dog, it’s im­por­tant to find out what this form of ther­apy en­tails. There are two forms of ther­apy: an­i­mal-as­sisted ther­apy (AAT) and an­i­malas­sisted ac­tiv­i­ties (AAA). “An­i­mal-as­sisted ther­apy is more struc­tured and in­volves the use of an­i­mals as part of a treat­ment process. An­i­mal-as­sisted ac­tiv­i­ties is about cre­at­ing an en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence for our ben­e­fi­cia­ries, with the goal be­ing to en­hance the qual­ity of life,” says Tzu Ying, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from SOSD’s Heal­ing Paws Pro­gramme.

There are costs in­volved with be­com­ing a ther­apy dog as well. “Ap­pli­ca­tion to be­come a ther­apy dog with Ther­apy Dog Sin­ga­pore (TDS) costs $35, which in­cludes a one-time mem­ber­ship fee, a TDS hu­man t-shirt and dog ban­dana which is worn dur­ing vis­its, and a car de­cal,” shares Stephanie Ho, paw-rent of four-and-ahalf-year-old Duke Lee, a Samoyed that vol­un­teers with TDS.

STEP 2: IDEN­TIFY FIDO’S TEM­PER­A­MENT

As much as you’d like to make your pooch a ther­apy dog, your pup’s na­ture is very im­por­tant. “Ther­apy dogs need to pos­sess the 3Cs—be con­fi­dent, calm and com­pan­ion­able,” shares Tzu Ying. A ther­apy dog needs to be con­fi­dent as it would be placed in sit­u­a­tions with many novel ob­jects, sights and sounds. This en­sures that it can han­dle any un­ex­pected re­ac­tions dur­ing ses­sions. Calm­ness is also es­sen­tial. When the dog is calm, it’ll be able to ex­press it­self in a re­laxed man­ner and obe­di­ently take cues from ei­ther its han­dler or the sit­u­a­tion. But most im­por­tantly, the dog has to be com­pan­ion­able. It should en­joy be­ing around hu­mans and meet­ing new peo­ple all the time. “Sable is ex­tremely friendly and gen­tle with so much love to share. She’s the gen­tlest and friendli­est dog I have ever met. She brings joy to strangers,” says Jamie Kloor, paw-rent of 10-year-old Sable, a Yel­low Labrador that vol­un­teers with Heal­ing Paws.

STEP 3: BE­HAV­IOUR TRAIN­ING AND AS­SESS­MENT

Once you have as­sessed that your pooch has the rigth tem­per­a­ment, it’s time for train­ing and as­sess­ments to pre­pare him for his ses­sions. “The type of train­ing and as­sess­ments can vary, de­pend­ing on what type of ther­apy the dog is used for,” in­forms Tzu Ying. At Heal­ing Paws, dogs are tested for sen­si­tiv­ity to sounds, mov­ing ob­jects, strangers and be­ing touched.

At or­gan­i­sa­tions such as TDS, all dogs have to un­dergo ba­sic obe­di­ence train­ing, prefer­ably Good Ca­nine Cit­i­zen or higher. “For dogs that have not un­der­gone ba­sic obe­di­ence train­ing, TDS con­ducts a sep­a­rate eval­u­a­tion test to en­sure that they are suit­able as ther­apy an­i­mals,” says Na­dine Lee, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for TDS.

STEP 4: CON­GRAT­U­LA­TIONS!

All you have to do now is to sign up. Ac­cord­ing to Tzu Ying, there is no of­fi­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to be­come a ther­apy dog in Sin­ga­pore. TDS also does not re­quire hu­man and/or ca­nine vol­un­teers to un­dergo train­ing and/or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore vol­un­teer­ing with them. So all you have to do now is to sign up as a vol­un­teer via the re­spec­tive web­sites.

You’ll also have to set aside some time for th­ese ses­sions. At Heal­ing Paws, vol­un­teers are en­cour­aged to go for at least one ses­sion a month. Each ses­sion lasts be­tween 30 min­utes to one-and-ahalf hours, but it is of­ten capped at an hour be­cause it can be tir­ing for both the dogs and vol­un­teers. At TDS, vol­un­teers are ex­pected to com­mit to at least four vis­its in six months with each ses­sion last­ing an hour.

Sable with a pa­tient

Justin Lee and Duke

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