DOES YOUR PUP HAVE EXTRA LOVE TO GIVE TO SOMEONE IN NEED?
Share the love! Train your dog to bring comfort and companionship to others.
Pets have been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and ease pain. These health benefits have led to increasing numbers of dogs being used to bring comfort and therapeutic help to people in hospitals, nursing homes and schools. Do you think your dog may enjoy spreading some love?
Is my dog suitable?
“Some dogs make beautiful family pets, but aren’t very interested in making friends with strangers,” explains veterinarian behaviourist Dr Gaille Perry. “They may have to go into multi-storey buildings and there could be lots of people and loud noises.”
For your dog to make a good therapy pet, it must be friendly, even-tempered, gentle and comfortable meeting new people in unusual environments. Being tolerant to being petted, responsive to verbal commands and able to walk nicely on a leash are also important. The best way to identify any potential weaknesses is to have your dog assessed to see if it’s suitable.
Animal therapy companions provide comfort through physical contact. This could include spending time with elderly people in a nursing home or visiting kids in hospital. No two days are the same.
“It’s an opportunity to interact with another living thing and is particularly good for people who’ve had dogs all their lives,” explains Dr Perry. “The benefits include increased physical movement – when stroking the dog – as well as improved cognitive functions.”
And it’s not only the patients who benefit – the dogs love it too. “They enjoy going out for rides in the car, meeting people and having a pat – it’s stress relief for everyone. If they don’t enjoy it then we don’t want them to do it,” she says. The only requirement is that owners commit to regular visits – either weekly or fortnightly.
If you think your dog would make a suitable therapy pet, the next step is getting certified. Contact a registered organisation – such as Canine Friends (caninefriends.org.nz) or Outreach Therapy Pets by St John (stjohn.org.nz)
– to organise your dog’s assessment. Their websites have advice and information on how to get your dog trained and assessed, list the organisations that provide the service and explain what skills will be tested.
In most cases, before being able to attend a workshop, you’ll also need to provide a completed health screening form, vaccination certificate and a profile of your dog’s temperament and aptitude. “It’s recommended that the owner participate in the dog training class with their pet too, but that’s not essential,” tells Dr Perry.