2001-Tue Feb 21 23:22:09 MST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
A: Therapy dogs, or visitation pets, have the potential to make a monumental difference in people’s lives. I have a
Pug named Willy who has been certified for nearly five years as a
therapy dog. He has impacted the lives of countless individuals in various walks of life, from the young to the elderly. He can break down barriers with people and reach them on a “heart level” in a way that would be impossible without him. He has inspired numerous people, from leading youths on probation toward making better choices to bringing comfort and companionship to those who are sick or in long-term care.
Before talking about what makes a therapy dog, it's important to understand what a therapy dog is
not. A therapy dog is not a
service dog, who is allowed to go into public spaces to assist his person with a specific need. There is a common misconception that dogs certified as visitation animals get the same access as service animals, but there is a clear distinction between the two.
Service dogs perform a task or meet a need for an individual with a disability; thus, they are given access to public spaces to accompany their people. Service animals assist with conditions like autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing or visual impairments, seizures,
diabetes and limited mobility. In comparison, therapy animals are given limited access to public spaces but usually have a certification making it more likely that facilities will allow their access. The purpose of a therapy dog is to visit individuals or places to provide companionship, support and, in some cases, education to those they come into contact with. Therapy dogs are used in a variety of situations, including at hospitals, nursing homes and schools. They also help individuals deal with grief in the wake of natural disasters and other traumatic events.
The type of certification required for a therapy dog is varied and depends in large part upon the individual facility. Some facilities have strict requirements, while others are more open. It's important to contact your facility of choice to ascertain its standards. There are numerous certification programs, from nationally recognized initiatives like Pet Partners or
Therapy Dogs International
to local courses. Some programs, such as Pet Partners, recommend undergoing foundational certifications, such as the American Kennel Club
Canine Good Citizen
test, before attempting their certification. Some facilities require only a “meet and greet” with a dog or Canine Good Citizen
certification to allow an animal to visit residents.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Many dogs will eat just about anything in
their path. That's why it's so important to
know the signs of intestinal…
From taking pills to clipping nails,
we’re here to help you take the stress
out of things many dogs loathe.
With plenty of patience, practice and
praise your dog might be willing to accept
— or even enjoy — this dental care…
Need a leash for regular outings or one
that can walk multiple canines? These
types of leashes are your best…
The fun and rambunctious Flat-Coated Retriever, known for his puppyish enthusiasm, makes a great family pet.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.