Growing In Popularity: Therapy Dogs
By Michele Forto
The inquiries into therapy dog training are on the rise. I receive countless emails, calls, and even walk-ins inquiring to the requirements for their dog to become a therapy dog. Working as a therapy team can be very rewarding – it can be very exhausting at the same time. A therapy dog provides momentary companionship, unconditional love, respect, and understanding to the individual they are spending time with in that exact moment. All while making sure their beloved owner is holding up to the stressful situation and handling it alright as well. Therapy dogs are truly guardian angels bringing light and joy into the room whenever they appear. But their job carries a heavy burden; they remove all of your worries, stress, pain, contemplation, and anger while they are with you and they tuck it away to be disposed of later. This is how a dear friend/client therapy dog mom explained her biggest concerns for her wonderful dog Mia. Mia came to me to get ready to be re-certified as a therapy dog and her mom was very concerned that Mia carried the woes of her visitors. I suggested a good walk and an ice-cream cone after her visits. Mia enjoyed her walks and her ice-cream cones immensely. No worries on weight gain she exercised for that ice-cream cone.
When I meet with people interested in training their dog to become a therapy dog – they always seem amazed when I explain that the training is a team effort. Therapy isn’t just about the dog – it’s a therapy team that is trained and taught to handle horrifically sad situations and both the human and the canine must arrive with smiles and bring joy to that person for this short moment in time. You see, your dog isn’t in the room alone, you’re right there beside him – unless you’re made of stone, you will find your emotions running away with you. It not only takes a special dog it takes a special human.
The popularity of therapy dogs is growing at a fast pace and I applaud each and every individual out there who is thinking of training their dog to do therapy. But change your way of thinking just a bit; instead of saying I’m training my dog to be a therapy dog, say we’re in training to become a therapy team. This will put you in a healthier mindset to take on this wonderful volunteering job that you are considering to undertake.
If you are interested in becoming a Therapy Team, I encourage you to visit and research as many training organizations as you can. There are many organizations to choose from who can help you reach your goals. Do not be discouraged IF the facility you’ve dreamed of volunteering with has a waiting list. Go into your training with an open mind and know that you are being trained to work with an angel (your dog) therefore it shouldn’t matter if you receive that coveted placement at Children’s Hospital, people of all ages and conditions need to be touched by an angel.
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Michele Forto the Denver Dog Training Examiner and is a certified canine trainer and the business manager for Denver Dog Works. Michele can be reached through her website at http://www.denverdogworks.com