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A therapy dog (of any breed and size) is specifically trained to provide affection and comfort to people in retirement homes, hospitals, libraries, schools and rehabilitation facilities. The people they visit sometimes are ill or infirm or they have learning difficulties or are facing stressful situations.

The most valuable characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, at ease in many unique situations as well as gentle. They should allow human contact and be comfortable being petted by strangers, sometimes awkwardly. Children particularly enjoy hugging the dogs and adults usually take pleasure in simply petting the dog.

Most pet therapy programs identify 3 basic forms of animal-assisted therapy:

  • Animal-assisted activities (AAA) - Casual activities that involve pets visiting people. The same activity is repeatable with many people, unlike a therapy program that is tailored to a particular person or medical condition.
  • Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) - Goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is a part of the treatment process. This therapy is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise.
  • Canine crisis response (animal-assisted intervention) - Seasoned therapy dog teams are screened and trained to respond in more intense emotional and environmental situations than usually encountered when volunteering in AAA or AAT. Crisis response may involve the team working directly under the guidance of mental health professionals.
if you are wanting to participate in a local therapy dog program, investigate the local programs available or visit our therapy dog training/certification calendar.
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