Casey sits as she sees my son get out the colorful collar and her tails starts to gyrate, along with her whole butt. She knows she’s going on another therapy visit. She love sit, to be able to go around the Nursing Home and visit with all the people is just so much fun for her.
My son started therapy dog due in part to the 4-H program and also from the fact that he had his dog in the dog obedience class and they were talking about the program. He heard about it in 4-H as well. He was interested in it, no prodding by his parents.
He found out that his dog, Casey, needs to be finished with his obedience class, then go through a class for training the dog in therapy visits. The classes for obedience teach things like how to sit and stay and all the commands and such that you would expect.
The therapy classes of which the dog and owner needs to attend and pass, are things like how to not lick, how to not get tangled in the tubes and wires found in hospitals and nursing homes and to not jump up on residents and patients.
They teach the dog and make sure they do not get afraid or scared of things like walkers and wheel chairs. They also have certain things the dog is taught not to do like not to jump up and not to lick hands. It makes sense when you just think about it that these are things that the dogs need to be trained on.
They also teach the owners what is expected of them and how to act and handle their dog. It is especially helpful with the kids who are younger that go on visits in what to expect at the nursing homes. When my son started therapy visits he was a bit younger and was a bit apprehensive about going around by himself. But now he has no qualms about going around the home by himself, and not have mom with. Well he does have Casey with but mom doesn’t need to go walk around the home with them anymore.
They have a great time talking, mostly about Casey but they also asks questions about Philip, what he’s doing, how he’s doing in school and just small talk. They really enjoy visiting with him and Casey, it brings a smile to their faces and a special meaning to the day.
First for a dog and owner to consider becoming a therapy dog team you have to realize and understand that therapy dogs need to have an owner that is going to be together for the visits. Both the owner and the dog goes to classes and need to pass a final test in order to become a therapy dog team.
Then you need to go through certified dog obedience courses, beginner, advanced beginner and at least taking novice classes in order to start the team n the therapy class. The therapy class goes through what the dog and owner can be expecting and they teach the dog what to do and not to do.
They also see how the dog reacts to different situations that they may encounter. Things like people grabbing tails and bear hugging the dog can occur and the therapy dog instructor needs to make sure of how the dog will react to these things. They need to show no aggressive tendencies in all of the classes that the instructor watches them in.
And then they have a final exam of sorts and go on their first visit. The instructor or another therapy dog team will go with the orient the new team and introduce them to the staff. They can then go on regular visits by themselves. There is a national organization if you are interested in more information or finding a club near you that can help with information or meeting places of classes:
And then my kids got involved with another therapy program that both of them can go and help out with. It is called Riding on Angels Wings. The North American Riding for the Handicapped Association has therapy riding for kids and adults with various disabilities.
They use horses to help people and kids with handicaps through therapeutic riding. The kids or adults riding not only have a great time but get all the benefits of riding horses such as balance control, muscle tone, and posture.
My kids got involved through both the 4-H and the Boy Scouts who had heard of a need for volunteers to go along and help the riders as they rode the horses around the arena. They would be involved with protecting the riding and making sure they did not fall off the horse.
The program is a great way to involve kids in the effort the help those with disabilities gain confidence and help them physically with their disability. They also benefit mentally with their confidence and self esteem by being able to do something like riding a horse.
After the ones with disabilities got to have their fun the volunteers would also get their chance at riding. Although they did not get the help and support of others walking along and watching out for them. My kids had a great time and they finished off the season of riding with a banquet where they all received awards for riding and the volunteers were recognized for their help.
You can find out more about Therapy with horses through he national web suite here:
Whether using horses or dogs, therapy using animals is a great and unique way to approach therapy of the elderly and people with disabilities. It is also a great way for kids and adults who want to help out their community by volunteering for these great and special programs.
My kids at first were apprehensive about joining in on these activities but it helps them get a better understanding of handicaps and disabilities. They also learn about the importance of helping others and volunteering in their community, and they do have fun.