Thursday, February 3, 2011

Canine Therapists

Those of us who have dogs know that they have an amazing ability to make us happy. Even if you don't have a dog, you may have noticed that petting or even just seeing a dog can lift your mood and make you smile.

But did you know that your dog can become a certified therapy dog. As a therapy dog, your dog will have the opportunity to bring smiles to lots of people. At PawsAbilities, you and your dog will have the chance to take the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and the Therapy Dog International (TDI) test to become a certified therapy dog.

In order to become a certified therapy dog, dogs must first pass the CGC test. CGC is a program of the American Kennel Club to certify that dogs have good manners at home and in the community. Dogs will be tested on ten different categories, including acceptance of a friendly stranger, recalls, and their reaction to other dogs and distractions. The TDI test builds on the CGC requirements to include the dog's reactions to medical equipment, leave it, acclimation to infirmities, and reactions to all people, especially children.

What is a therapy dog?

A therapy dog is a pet that has been certified as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs have wonderful temperaments and get along with people, especially children, as well as other dogs and animals. Therapy dogs may visit schools for reading programs and other activities, or they may visit hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, libraries and shelters. Some therapy dogs may even make home visits.

Many therapy dogs can sense when someone needs them, and they'll go right up to them for some cuddle time. The TDI website has a beautiful story about a therapy dog named Alex that helped a little boy come out of his depression and smile again. [Note: To read this story, you'll have to scroll down in the middle column on TDI's homepage.]

What is the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog?

People sometimes confuse therapy dogs with service dogs, but they are not the same. A therapy dog is a pet, while a service dog is not.

Service dogs have public access, meaning they can accompany their partner anywhere that caters to the public. They can go into grocery stores, museums, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. - all places where you cannot typically take pets. Although therapy dogs can go into schools, libraries, hospitals, and other similar places, they can only go when they are invited for a therapy visit. Therapy dogs do not have public access and should not accompany their owners to places like the grocery store.

A service dog is trained in specific tasks to assist their partner in their daily life. Legally, service dogs and their partners are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A therapy dog, on the other hand, is trained to provide comfort and affection, and they are not mentioned in the ADA.

If you and your dog are interested in becoming a certified therapy dog team, register to take the CGC and TDI tests at PawsAbilities!

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