If you’re anything like me, there are some days that you can’t imagine getting through without your dog. The type of emotional connection and support dogs can give you wordlessly can’t be matched.
That’s why therapy dogs can be so effective in so many settings, like hospitals, childcare centers, and disaster areas. When I was in college, we had a group of therapy dogs come during finals week and I always stopped by. Nothing will make your troubles melt away faster than a few doggie kisses! But did you know that you can volunteer with your dog as a therapy dog? You can take them for a while to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. Don’t worry, you aren’t giving them up, think of it as a volunteering opportunity that you can do with your dog!
Therapy dogs are a type of working dog, but there are important distinctions between them and other service animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association breaks them down into four classifications:
- Assistance Animal
- Service Animal
- Emotional Support Animal
- Therapy Animal
It’s important to note that the same organization asserts that “Animals used in animal-assisted activities (e.g., therapy animals, residential animals) do not have federally protected rights of access” such as service animals.
4 Qualities of a Therapy Dog
If you’re still interested in making your pup into a therapy dog, U.S. Service Animals outlines the four primary qualities they’ll need to take on the important role. Any breed can become a therapy dog, so long as they match the below criteria: