12 Days of Training; Day Four



(Guest: This blog has been written by Renea Dahms)

I began my therapy dog team journey in 2003. I decided to invest in the Delta Society’s Pet Partner Program and tested my two Australian Shepherds, Indigo & Vega. I was actually pretty happy that both dogs passed, and we were the first to do so (under this evaluator).

As I had spent 7 years as a pre-school teacher, I decided to become part of the local reading program, and each week I would arrive at my designated school with Indigo, Vega and my mom in tow.

The purpose of the reading program was to help those with reading difficulties by offering them a safe, non-judgmental reading partner, the dog. The school we were assigned allowed all the children dog time, so that those with good reading skills did not feel slighted and those with weaker skills did not feel singled out.

Like people, dogs have different personalities. Indigo was the class clown and Vega was all work, so naturally our third graders fought over reading to Indigo.

One memorable visit, Indigo wanted attention from the boy reading. His reading buddy was clearly into books. He never looked up from the pages, despite Indigo’s attempts to gain his undivided attention. After minutes of whining and noise making, Indigo finally took matters into his own paws, he stood up, flipped the book shut with his foot and sat on it, looking directly into the eyes of the boy. He got his petting and play time, with very little story telling.

Therapy dog teams bring comfort, memories, and peace to those they visit. Sometimes they simply open the doors of communication as someone remembers their dogs past, or they offer the closeness and warmth petting brings.

Therapy dog work can be beneficial to the team as well. The handler finds joy in the peace and comfort their canine brings and for dogs that love human attention.

Not all dogs are meant to be therapy dogs, and  handlers should take great care in monitoring this. Some dogs start out enjoying it and later burn out, while others never find joy in forced interactions or the environments in which they must work.

Unlike service animals, therapy dogs are pets. They are loving dogs, owned by the handler and do not have the same public access as service dogs.

If you think your dog has the temperament to make the life of others more meaningful, I urge you to look into becoming a certified therapy team. There is a great need for therapy teams, especially in hospice settings.

To become a certified team, you will need to be tested by someone authorized by one of the organizations in your area. The top five are:

  • Kenyon K9 Foundation
  • K9to5 National Therapy Dog Registry
  • Therapy Dog Incorporated
  • Therapy Dogs International
  • Pet Partners (formerly known as Delta Society).

Each organization has their own set of rules and membership options, but the one thing they all offer is insurance to cover you should an incident occur.

Consider becoming an integral part of someone’s life, become a therapy dog team.

©Renea L. Dahms
Pawsitively Unleashed 

Check out Michelle’s other 12 Days of Dog Training Tips or the Pet Holiday Zen Tips!
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Service & Therapy Dogs; What’s the Difference?

I am amazed on a daily basis how dogs change our lives, brighten our day, or even help us deal with the hard knocks of life.  The dogs that have worked to become a Service or Therapy dog are truly a special “breed” as they are changing their corner of the world.

therapyvisitPhoto: Boy and Michelle on Therapy visit for Pet Responsibility

What is a Service Dog?
Here is what the Americans with Disabilities Act States:  Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

Service Dog loveThis was copied directly from http://www.ada.gov/svcanimb.htm. Duplication is encouraged. April 2002

In the past few months, I have gotten way too many calls from clients that paid money to an organization for a service dog and then they were never rewarded with the dog. Unfortunately this is not all that uncommon. Before you open your pocket book, please research, ask a lot of questions and talk to people that you trust that are working in the service dog circuit. I have listed below some trusted organizations in the United States that offer service dog training or that provide service dogs.

Trusted organizations:

What is a Therapy Dog?
A therapy team interacts with people in a positive way where people are able to share love and companionship with their dog and with others. There are two different roles that a therapy team can play. One is simply a visitation with the sole purpose for the canine to interact with others to enhance the quality of life and to lift spirits. The other is called Assisted Therapy or also known as therapeutic visits and this is where the team works together with a medical professional to assist with rehab, physical therapy or other medical needs. Therapy dogs must be invited into a facility. Unlike a service dog,  a therapy dog does not have the right to access any building or public transportation.


In Short
A service dog aids someone with a specific task in daily life and a therapy dog conducts visits with a pet guardian to brighten people’s day.

Blog written by Michelle Huntting