I wholeheartedly believe in the affect that animals can have on people. Having worked in the mental health field and with at risk youth, my own registered therapy dogs made great strides with the clients and students I worked with.
My beloved dog, Sierra, was my last true therapy dog and I’ve missed it.Â Sierra and I did many visits and she went to work with me and did lots of school visits as well. She was a natural and loved her job. In her heyday, all Sierra needed was for me to hold her leash and she’d work her magic on the population we were visiting at the time. She was equally comfortable with children, teens or in nursing homes.
Since sheÂ retired and has since passed,Â my other dogs just haven’t had the right aptitude for therapy work. Yes, they could pass the test but they weren’t really what I considered true therapy dogs.
They could visit and be fine but they could really care less. Not exactly a trait you look for in a therapy partner. As Apache grew older, he became more of a fan of therapy dog work and enjoyed being with people.Â It still was never a big desire for him.Â He could take it or leave it.
Behaviors needed for any animal to pass most therapy dog evaluations can be taught as there is a need for any dog to have a strong foundation in obedience but what makes a therapy dog special is something extra. This can’t be taught. Either the animal has it or it doesn’t.
A true therapy dog seeks interaction with people and almost seems intuitive about how to react and respond to the situation. I’ve missed doing therapy work with my dogs. I like doing the visits and seeing the impact our animals have on people.Â Ultimately, I’d love to do crisis work in disasters.
My new pup, Gilley, will hopefully grow up to be a therapy dog.Â At least, thatâ€™s a goal I have for her.Â At only 6 months old, she still has a lot of maturing to do and plenty of skills to learn.Â Sheâ€™s a little unsure in new situations so lots of socializing with her in tow is our goal right now.Â She is loving my nephew whoâ€™s here for the summer.Â His wild antics are also helping her build her confidence.
Working with kids with Sierra was extremely rewarding. My heart belongs with both kids and dogs so pairing them together is always a win-win situation. Dogs and kids interact so well and can teach each other so many life lessons. Not every family is able to have a dog or even any type of pet but kids do need to have the opportunity to meet and interact with them.
A therapy dog is not a service dog or an emotional support animal. These are all three different types of jobs.Â A therapy dog is a way for you and your family pet to provide a service to the community.Â
Therapy dogs and their owners/handlers undergo training and evaluations on a regular basis.Â There are national organizations that provide the certifications and approval of the therapy teams.Â Most also provide liability insurance for each registered team in case of an accident.Â
If you have a dog that loves people and loves to go to new situations, please think about doing therapy work.Â The Obedience Training Club of Wichita Falls provides classes for basic obedience training as well as therapy dog preparation classes.Â All their classes are offered thru Parks & Recreation for the City of Wichita Falls.
Pet columnist, Katrena Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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