Lifes Abundance content relating to 'therapy dog'

Is Therapy Training Right for Your Dog?

Therapy Dog Connects With Woman

Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is a wonderful way for your companion animal to help people in need. Registered therapy animals visit schools, hospitals, prisons, libraries, nursing homes and other facilities where interactions with pets could help people. Pet therapy activities, such as petting, brushing, walking, playing fetch, doing tricks or even something as simple as gazing into each other’s eyes, not only help people take their mind off their own problems, they can have physiological effects too.

Oftentimes, animals can reach humans in a way that other people can’t, making them feel safe and unconditionally loved. There’s no denying that the human-animal bond is powerful. Fearful children and patients feel braver and stronger in the presence of a companion animal. Studies have chronicled numerous positive effects for hospital patients, including lowered blood pressure rates, heart rates and stress levels.

Even though cats, birds, rabbits and other small animals make wonderful therapy workers, in this post we’ll be focusing on therapy dogs and what characteristics are needed for a good candidate.

Characteristics Well-Suited to Therapy Dog Requirements

To determine whether or not your dog is cut out for therapy work, keep in mind that the most successful therapy dogs really enjoy interacting with people, willingly allow strangers to pet them, are able to walk nicely on a leash without pulling, are able to remain calm around distractions and pay close attention to their handlers. These canines should be comfortable around children, as well as a variety of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, canes and walkers. They also need to be tolerant of potentially rough handling and jerky movements, as children and people suffering from illness may not be able to be as gentle as you or me. Additionally, dogs who are brave, like to nudge your hand for attention, or frequently put their head in your lap usually make for amazing therapy workers.

Generally speaking, most therapy dog training programs require your pooch to be at least one year old, have proof of up-to-date vaccinations and be tested to ensure they’re free from infectious organisms. To become a registered therapy animal, your dog must undergo a temperament evaluation to establish that his or her personality is a good fit for the program. Even though therapy dog requirements vary, the certification process usually involves two or three supervised visits to judge how well your dog reacts when faced with new environments.

How Do I Get My Therapy Dog Training Certification?

There are several national non-profit programs that certify dogs for pet therapy. Among these, Therapy Dogs International, Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Pet Partners are stellar organizations and great places to start learning more about this community of healers. 

If you feel like your companion animal might be well suited to this important work, contact one of the local chapters in your area. They will tell you everything you need to know about therapy dog training and how to register. Many of you will be happy to note that dogs need not be purebred for certification.

And, remember … a good therapy dog is only half of the partnership. You, as the handler, are vitally important to this equation. Be forewarned, it’s a significant investment of your time, and the work can be emotionally demanding. But most who do this work find the benefits to others far outweigh the personal costs.  

Have you ever had a personal experience with pet-assisted therapy? We would love to hear your story, just leave your comments in the section below.

 

Funding Awarded to German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue

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It’s time once again for an update from our non-profit charity, The Dr. Jane Foundation. This month, we’re excited to share news of a financial award to an intrepid group of rescuers based in Denver. A breed-specific rescue group, this organization places homeless German Shorthaired Pointers (GSP's) and Pointer mixes with foster homes until they're matched with their ideal adoptive families.

All Points West German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue is a relatively new not-for-profit association, having just celebrated their 1st anniversary this year! In the short time they've been rescuing, All Points West has helped to rescue, rehabilitate and find forever homes for dozens of dogs, not just in Colorado but also in neighboring states and the Pacific Northwest.

This excellent group of experienced, dedicated rescuers has 20 years of combined rescue and foster experience. Their passion for Pointers can hardly be understated! In just a year of operations, they've already rescued 49 dogs; and of those, 41 have been successfully adopted! They graciously attribute their amazing rescue rate to their volunteers and to the groups and individuals whose contributions fund their work.

All Points West's mission supports the long-term goal of lowering euthanasia rates in the region through adoption programs. With each additional rescue, they're working for a future in which all rescued GSP’s find responsible, loving homes where they can live free from abuse, hunger, fear, loneliness and receive the care and respect they deserve. Not only do they celebrate and honor this noble, adventurous and loving breed, they regularly sing the praises of every pet parent who chooses to adopt rather than purchase a new dog.

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At any given time, this group provides essential daily care for dozens of GSP's and Pointer mixes, covering the costs of all veterinary expenses. Given the state of some of their rescued pups, this is no small feat. Because they have been able to achieve so much in so little time, the decision by our non-profit to fund their grant application was an easy one. Thanks to a top-notch foster program and superb veterinary care, our Board of Directors feels confident that All Points West’s vigilant and dedicated team will save countless GSP's.

Their Pointers come from a variety of heartbreaking backgrounds. Some are relinquished to shelters, others are abandoned in the wild. For the dogs who are fortunate enough to be accepted into a shelter, many will wait a very long time before anyone pays them interest. The sad fact is, there is a common misperception that these creatures are “good for hunting but not as pets”. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Pointers are known to be adoring, affectionate and great family dogs. Even as they work to rescue as many dogs as possible, All Points West has also made strides in changing the prevailing narrative concerning this loving breed.

All Points West has used our financial award to help defray the costs of medical care. Founding Board Member Gail Wise had this to say about our grant: "We appreciate the Dr. Jane Foundation’s belief in our work and support for that work. Without financial underwriting like that of the Dr. Jane Foundation, we couldn’t save these dogs and offer health, comfort, and in many cases, a first-time loving home to them. Our excitement over the possibilities for life saving medical care that this level of support provides for our rescued dogs will truly be one of the highlights of 2017 for us. It allows us to keep saving more dogs and helping them to live happy and healthy lives with their forever families."

Here are just a few of the sweet, lovable Pointers who have benefitted from All Points West's lifesaving assistance …

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Foster

This past summer, APW rescued Foster, a GSP found wandering country roads completely emaciated and severely dehydrated. All of his teeth were broken or missing. Had he not been found, he surely would've perished. He has some complex and serious health issues, but with our financial support, Foster has regained some of his health with the help of specialists and holistic veterinarians. An All Points West representative said that receiving our award was "a wonderful coincidence" that "the generosity of a company that believes in holistic animal care is helping to provide exactly that for sweet Foster!" They added that without our "critical financial support he would have died alone or had to immediately be euthanized and not have had the chance to be loved, to play and cuddle, to go camping and hiking with his new family." As you can tell from the previous photos above, Foster really enjoys snuggling with his new siblings.

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Yankee

This sweet, goofy adult male was discovered deep in the New Mexico desert, after fending off both feral dogs and coyotes. Based upon his discomfort with other dogs and his physical symptoms, his rescuers believe he was held in a small enclosure before being abandoned in a remote desert canyon. All of his joints were extremely red and swollen. After a full medical work-up and x-rays, vets determined he had chewed his joints repetitively, perhaps out of fear or anxiety. But, thanks to the incredible care they provided, All Points West was able to locate a loving home. His new pet parents are helping Yankee to learn how to feel secure as a beloved family member.

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Brexie

An orthopedic special-needs girl, Brexie was born with a malformed lower spine. Incredibly, she was adopted by a chiropractor, which turned out to be a perfect match! Thanks to a significant investment in medical care and physical therapy, she now lives pain-free, is able to remain continent in the house and has developed additional musculature in her hindquarters. In fact, she's able to run and play with her foster pack on miles-long, off-leash hiking adventures every afternoon! Her new family totally dotes on her, and her specially trained dad who works with her every day to help her further overcome her spinal issues. It's an amazing sight to see her living her best life, especially considering that she was facing euthanasia prior to her rescue by All Points West.

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Jake

After being rescued, Jake's foster care parents sussed out that Jake was having trouble with separation anxiety. Otherwise, he was perfectly healthy. The adoption coordinator thought that given his anxiety issues, having a job might be beneficial. As a result, Jake discovered his true calling ... being a therapy dog. He was adopted by a loving couple whose young son was suffering from a severe, debilitating case of anxiety. It was so pronounced, he had developed agoraphobia, and experienced extreme fear whenever he left the house. Fortunately for both, the pairing proved unbelievably successful. Jake and the boy have formed an inseparable bond, and now they do everything together, including outdoor chores, biking and running, even playing outside with other friends. Way to go, Jake!

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Jasper

This handsome doggo is one of four seniors All Points West has placed thus far. Unlike many of their rescues, this 10-year-old only needed an initial intake exam. Jasper is a real cuddle bug, loves to swim and is widely regarded as "just about the nicest dog you could meet." As with the other three seniors, Jasper has found an adoring home that provides love, snuggles and a comfy place to lay his head.

Anyone looking for more information about this amazing rescue can visit their site at www.allpointswestgsp.org or email them directly at AllPointsWestGSP@gmail.com. For any Colorado residents, this rescue encourages interested adopters to contact them immediately, as well as anyone interested in becoming a foster parent.

From all of us here at Life’s Abundance headquarters, we thank this committed network of lifesavers for their incredible work. And we thank all readers and customers … through your personal donations and continued patronage, you’ve helped make all of our grants possible. Your generosity and loyalty have helped to make the world a better place for abandoned, abused and neglected animals across America.

And there’s more good news … The Dr. Jane Foundation is now accepting applications for funding in 2018. If you know of an animal rescue organization that deserves special recognition and financial support, please encourage them to submit an application today.

Check back soon for more good news from The Dr. Jane Foundation. Together, we’re making a difference!