Therapy pets spread love through the community
Posted January 17, 2018
Therapy pets are similar to the average pet
because they offer stress relief, comfort, and affection. However,
therapy pets differ because they are specially trained to travel to
and remain calm in various environments, such as nursing homes,
hospitals, and college campuses.
Because therapy pets must be able to tolerate potentially
stressful situations, such as a crowded room of people, only pets
that have been properly trained and temperament tested should be
certified as a therapy pet. Once certified, volunteering with your
therapy pet and helping community members can be a fun and
Kit Darling, an infection control coordinator at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,
said a lot of evaluation goes into certifying therapy pets.
Potential therapy pets must pass a temperament test, which
evaluates the animal and its owner as a team and consists of the
animal meeting a person it does not know and demonstrating basic
obedience commands. Passing a temperament test is extremely
important for the safety of the animal and those interacting with
the animal during visits.
Other training, such as remaining calm during loud sounds and
while being touched in different areas of the body, comes in handy
while going on visits. Darling, who volunteers with Aggieland Pets
with a Purpose (APWAP), often takes her therapy dogs to provide
emotional relief for those in nursing homes or hospitals. In this
case, Darling’s therapy dogs must be comfortable around
wheelchairs, walkers and canes.
With all the places a therapy pet may travel, it’s easy to see
why not all animals are fit to be therapy pets. However, for the
special animals that do have a calm and patient temperament,
Darling said you can start training your pet by introducing it to
different people, including children and older adults. Visiting
diverse settings, such as parks, outdoor venues, or outdoor
restaurants is also a good way to socialize your animal.
“It is also helpful to attend obedience classes,” Darling said.
“Socialize your dog or cat with other animals and work with your
pet so that they tolerate being touched by you and others.”
If you want to take the steps to certify your animal as a
therapy pet, Darling recommended finding a local organization to
volunteer with, such as APWAP. Serving the community and spreading
love through therapy pets is really rewarding, Darling said.
But remember, not all animals are fit to be therapy pets.
Darling reminds pet owners that potential therapy pets must have a
calm and stable temperament. They should enjoy interacting
with people, even in large crowds, and be tolerant of other
“Overall, therapy pets should tolerate stressful situations
without becoming distressed, aggressive, or exhibit any behavior
that could be dangerous,” Darling said.
To learn more about APWAP, visit www.apwap.org.
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Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be
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