We all love our dogs – we play, walk them, groom them, and send them to dog day care if they are really lucky. Dogs are Man’s best friend, and they are also, in many cases, extremely intelligent beings who play a very important role in society as working dogs. These jobs for canines can include police dogs, drug-sniffer dogs, rescue dogs, guide dogs for the blind, farm dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs.
Therapy Dogs are dogs that are specially trained to provide comfort and affection to people with various needs and they work in hospitals, hospices, retirement homes, prisons, disaster areas, some schools and colleges, and one-on-one with people with disorders such as cerebral palsy and autism. As opposed to Assistance Dogs, they simply offer love and companionship, and don’t qualify as Service Dogs.
Using Therapy Dogs is a relatively new phenomenon, and was conceived by Nurse Elaine Smith, who in the 1970’s noticed the response of patients when their chaplain visited with his Golden Retriever. Smith began a program in 1976 which saw dogs visiting hospitals and the like and the demand quickly grew.
In Australia, Pets as Therapy (PAT) dogs are used to fulfil companionship needs of people who are disadvantaged due to age, illness, isolation, or disability. There are a number of service providers throughout the nation, including Guide Dogs Australia, the Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs Australia (CSTHA), Dogs Victoria, Delta Society, and Assisted Wellbeing Ability Recovery and Empowerment (AWARE) Dogs Australia…
• Dogs Victoria Therapy Dogs visit care homes, dialysis clinics, psychiatric units, and hospices. Their visits brighten the lives of those they encounter. Diverse breeds including Labrador Retrievers, Kelpies, Corgis, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, Rottweilers, Great Danes and Keeshonds participate in this program.
• The Delta Society Australia operates nationwide and has twelve branches. There are more than four hundred participating Delta Pet Partner teams that visit hospitals for children and adults, aged care homes, rehabilitation units, mental health facilities, and much more.
• AWARE Dogs Australia provides Assistance Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, and Facility Dogs throughout Australia for people with psycho-social and developmental health issues.
• The CSTDA provides dogs for Aged Care Facilities, Seizure Alerts, Alzheimer Aid, Autism Service, and Post Traumatic Stress sufferers. It also provides training for dogs and their owners.
Therapy dogs are trained to deal with the unexpected, including wheelchairs, walking sticks and frames, hospital equipment, and to remain calm at all times. They are assessed in their suitability to volunteer and those dogs that are not owned by a single person in need come to various locations with their owner volunteer as well.
Man’s Best Friend is truly remarkable! Connection with a Therapy Dog is rewarding and enhances recovery and quality of life. If you are interested in volunteering with your furry best friend as a Therapy Dog team, contact any of the abovementioned groups to learn more.