Therapy pets perform a very important job. They provide a need for patients with disabilities – whether physical, behavioral or mental. Adding an animal component to treatment of certain patients can make a big difference in their care, including the length and the extent of treatment. Are you thinking about volunteering your pet to help others? Here are some things you should know.
Pet therapy involves the use of private animals and their owners to assist in a therapeutic nature with patients of all types. Therapy pets are utilized in nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, private homes, schools, prisons, shelters and the like. Across a spectrum of locations, pets have proven their worth as a healing balm to humans.
There are a large number of organizations that specialize in therapy animals for people. They are always on the lookout for volunteers and their animals to assist with the cause.
Is My Animal Ready?
When it comes to therapy, many breeds of dog, cat, bird, and others are suitable to interact with people, but that doesn’t mean that your pet is ready. Here are some criteria to consider.
Your dog might be okay at home, but when they get around other people, do they bark or snarl? To ensure your dog is ready, consider an obedience course. Make sure that the trainer’s methods comply with the AKC/Canine Good Citizen test. A good training program can take from six to twelve weeks to complete. They should be able to follow your commands when around new people.
How does your pet react around other people? Depending on the location and type of therapy needed by the patient, there may be a lot of petting involved. Kids are often loud and rough until they are taught to handle pets. Is your pet able to deal with crotchety old folks and rambunctious children? A good therapy pet is one that stays calm and gentle in a variety of circumstances.
Dogs and other animals that are used to being around people are more likely to be friendly and outgoing in a crowd of new faces at a nursing home or a children’s ward in a hospital. They also need to be comfortable and not spooked when around other animals.
* Clean bill of health
Therapy pets should be free of disease and properly vaccinated so as not to pose a danger to the patient. The center or the organization you will be working with may require proof of their health. Short-haired pets that don’t shed a lot (if at all) are preferable. Some patients may have allergies to animal dander.
Pets of all kinds are used in animal assisted therapy. You and your canine, feline or bird could be the next volunteers.