A therapy dog is different from a service dog. Service dogs are trained to stay with people who have disabilities. Service dogs have certain privileges to enter public places such as planes, restaurants, stores, etc. They are allowed in areas to assist their disabled masters where other dogs are not allowed. |
Therapy dogs are trained to visit schools, hospitals, rehabs, nursing homes, etc. to help lift the mood of patients in such areas. Therapy Dogs are especially helpful for children who need to stay in long term care facilities. Therapy Dogs do not have the same privileges of special access as do the Service Dogs. There is a variety of professionals who use Therapy Dogs. Depending upon the dog’s training, they may be used by physical therapists, occupational therapists, counselors, social workers, speech therapists or special education teachers and paraprofessionals.
There are stringent requirements a dog must meet before earning the title of being a Therapy Dog. There are five criteria levels offered by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The Novice Therapy Dog must complete at least 10 visits; the Therapy Dog criteria is 50 visits; the Advanced Therapy Dog needs to complete at least 100 visits; the Excellent Therapy Dog level needs 200 visits; and the Distinguished Therapy Dog level must complete at least 400 visits. The dog must be certified/registered by an AKC recognized therapy dog organization. All breeds of dogs are eligible to become Therapy Dogs, even mixed breed dogs. However, the dogs must have an innate clamming manner, both physically and emotionally. They must love people and be able to calmly approach strangers and make eye contact. They need to be able to remain calm if children hug them too tight or pull their tail. There are not a lot of dogs who have this innate ability.
Therapy Dogs must be registered with the AKC and have a number. The AKC offers three options for certification. Option one is for registered purebred dogs; Option two is for a PAL number which is given to non-registered purebred dogs; and Option three is a Canine Partners Number for mixed breeds or those who are unable to be registered.
There are programs available that teach how to train your dog to be a therapy dog. If you would like to train your dog to be a Therapy Dog, you must put in a lot of love and attention. Remember, dogs must have a lot of love given to them before they can start sharing their love with others.
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