Have you ever wondered if your dog has what it takes to be a therapy dog? Is your dog sweet, affectionate, gentle, steadfast in temperament, approachable, doesn’t shy or startle easily? Do you love people, enjoy seeing success and victories achieved by people, do you enjoy helping others? Then, you and your dog may have what it takes to be a Therapy Dog Team. Therapy Dogs are dogs that are trained to provide comfort and affection to people in retirement homes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, or people with learning difficulties.
The very first Therapy Dog can be attributed to a Yorkshire Terrier found on the battle field by Corporal William Wynn during World War II. Wynn named the Yorkie, Smokey. Smokey began as a Therapy Dog while Wynn was hospitalized for jungle disease. As Wynn recovered, he took Smokey to other soldiers in the hospital to cheer them up. Smokey’s use as a Therapy Dog continued for twelve years, during and after World War II.
In 1976, registered nurse Elaine Smith noticed how well patients responded to the chaplain and his visits with his Golden Retriever. Smith started a program for training dogs to visit institutions. Health care professionals noticed the therapeutic effect of animal companionship such as lowered blood pressure, relieving stress, and mood elevation. The demand for Therapy Dogs continued to grow. Today, there is a wealth of research that indicates when animals are around, people’s blood pressure goes down, stress and anxiety levels are reduced, people feel less lonely and less depressed, and they tend to be more social and community oriented. One example of the use of therapy dogs is the building of self-confidence. Many children have difficulties reading. As a result, they can develop low self-esteem when reading in public. By reading to a dog, children relax and focus on the dog and ‘the reading’, therefore building self-confidence.
After training their dog in basic and advanced obedience at It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. George and Tina Granillo noticed that their dog, a Cane Corso named Lucy had a knack with autistic adults and children. When Tina took Lucy to work, she noticed how patient Lucy was with the autistic adults and how much everyone loved her. They quickly realized that they had the makings of a good therapy dog. In addition to being well trained, Therapy Dogs must be patient and approachable. They can’t show any signs of anxiety or fear, especially in new surroundings or around unfamiliar people.
Lexy, a 5 pound 9 ounce Maltese is one such success story on how a well- trained dog can move into the title, “Therapy Dog”. Christine Mangrich, Dog Trainer at It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. worked with Lexy and her owner Cyndie Noteboom in advanced obedience classes. “Lexy’s not only smart, but she has a great personality and very friendly, we all knew she’d make a great therapy dog,” Mangrich said. “Most people tend to associate Labs or golden retrievers or German shepherds as being therapy dogs, but small dogs make great therapy dogs especially in a senior setting where they can be placed in a lap.” Cyndie Noteboom and her dog Lexy eventually registered with Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program within the Inland Valley Chapter of California. Curious if your dog has what it takes? Take this quiz to make your own evaluation to see if you and your dog are suited for this kind of work.
Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs is a non-profit organization that helps people live healthier and happier lives by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives. Do you and your dog have what it takes? If so, attend our next Therapy Dog class Sunday June 15th at 9:30 a.m. This is a five week class. Prerequisite: Completion of Basic Obedience. Day of test, dog must be at least 1 year of age. Therapy Dog Certification is on the last day of class. Cost is $225. Registration fee: $20 Annual Membership with Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dog: $50