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An Introduction to Therapy Dogs

Our newest addition to CI is our friend, a golden doodle named Stella, our Furry Friendship Facilitator. ---

Stella is a former service dog who attends CI to introduce encouragement, comfort, and play. Stella started her career as a seizure alert dog. Ironically, when the family brought Stella home, their son stopped having seizures. The companionship and ease Stella provided to this boy provided a gift of relief to him and his family no one or nothing else could provide. Because Stella and her owners have been such a huge part of why we do what we do at CI, we want to share with you some tips and guidance to see if a service dog would benefit your child and family.

Background

Service dogs are not for everyone. Some people would and will benefit from the support of a service dog, and some will not. Service dogs have been used for:
• Blindness and Other Visual Impairments
• Veterans with Physical or Mental Disabilities
• Individuals with Physical or Mental Disabilities
• Individuals with Diabetes
• Deafness and Other Hearing Impairments
• Epilepsy
• Autism
• Down Syndrome
This is just to name a few!

When choosing a breed of service dog, it is important to consider what breed’s characteristics and temperament best fit your family’s lifestyle. Most commonly used breeds include German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and border collies but any breed could qualify!

Step 1: Age and Health

Regular checkups are key. The dog’s health should also be a large consideration when deciding which dog is best fit. If your dog has any conditions such as diabetes or arthritis, certain tasks or responsibilities could be very difficult for that dog as well as not provide the highest quality of life. Service dogs should be neutered to reduce aggression as well as eliminate the potential of working in heat.

Step 2: Personality

When testing for the personality of your potential service dog, key things to look for are in your dog’s temperament. Your dog should appear with a calm and cool demeanor as well as alert in responsive. Either extreme should be alarming.

Step 3: Training

Although there is no certification required, there is a standard. Service dogs do require intensive training and discipline. To ensure your dog receives the right training for your needs, seek a reputable service dog trainer in your area. When thinking about the time it will take to train your dog, be sure that enough time is allowed! International standards say a minimum of 120 training hours, 30 of those hours being in the community.

Step 4: Public Access Test

These are the basics of what qualifications a service dog must have:

  • No exhibiting aggressive behaviors (biting, barking, growling, etc.)
  • Only urinating or defecating on command
  • No sniffing behaviors
  • No solicitations for food or affection
  • Curbed excitement and hyperactivity
Step 5: Registration and Finalization

The next steps to finalizing all the work put into service dog training include:

  • Complete documentation of training process and hours
  • Completion of public access test
  • Registering with a reputable service (United States Service Dog Registry). This ensures competency or validity of your service dog.

The service dog process may not be the easiest journey but it is worth it! We hope this assists you in determining if a service dog would be beneficial for your family.

An Introduction to Therapy Dogs
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