Can My Dog Participate in Animal-Assisted Therapies?

With proper training of certain breeds, it’s possible to carry out the tasks of psychological assistance. It’s proven to be effective for people who need emotional help.
Can My Dog Participate in Animal-Assisted Therapies?

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 21 March, 2023

Animal-assisted therapies are the order of the day, and many are dedicated body and soul to this type of help. Some breeds are more suitable for this type of work than others. However, depending on the personality and character of the animal, many others could prove to be appropriate. You may wonder if your dog can participate in animal-assisted therapy.

What should a dog that participates in animal-assisted therapies be like?

Even if there isn’t a specific breed that can participate in therapy, on many occasions it’s German Shepherds and Labradors who carry out this work. This is because these breeds have certain ideal characteristics. Which are they?

  • Nobility. This is one of the most outstanding virtues, since an animal that participates in therapies must be noble, or, in other words, to be inclined to do the right thing. This quality will ensure that the animal doesn’t cause any surprises nor have any aggressive or disorderly behavior.
  • Intelligence. The animal trained for therapy must be intelligent enough to learn certain commands and know how to act in various situations. Not all dogs are good at this, as we aren’t talking about sitting or shaking hands, but about knowing how to behave at all times and in all places.
  • Sociable. This is another one of the most important qualities to highlight. The dog that receives training for therapy will have to be surrounded by people, and even by other animals that also participate as therapists. Therefore, being sociable is a must for animals that want to undertake this work. The objective is to calm and improve the lives of people who need it. A dog that fights other dogs or that isn’t nice to humans is not suitable for this type of work.
Dogs for psychological help.

And also…

  • Obedience. Regardless of what’s going on around it, or what’s going on in its mind. A trained therapy dog should always, always, obey its trainer’s orders. This person is usually the keeper of the animal as well.
  • Tranquility. Additionally, it should be a calm dog, which transmits peace. It shouldn’t be nervous and playful, as this can upset the people the therapy is carried out with.
  • Patience and tolerance. Many of the animal-assisted therapies are aimed at children. Therefore, it’s important for the animal to be patient and tolerant with them. They may want to climb on the animal or pull its tail or ears. The reaction of the dog will determine the help given to the affected people.
Dog giving emotional assistance in a hospital.

Can your dog participate in animal-assisted therapies then?

The answer, if we take into account all of the above, is a clear yes, as long as it has these qualities. If your dog meets these requirements and has a balanced temper, it’s likely that it’ll be able to receive training to participate in animal-assisted therapies.

In this case, you’ll have to look for a professional trainer. This expert will turn your animal into a therapy dog, given that the training must follow a certain protocol.

If your dog is trainable and can participate in therapy, you should always accompany it because you’re the one it has the strongest bond with. At the very least during the first sessions, until it familiarizes itself with the therapist and starts obeying him.

So, as you can see, even if your dog isn’t a Labrador or a German Shepherd, and its character is reliable, even-tempered, along with other qualities, then it could well be suitable for participating in therapy. Why not look into it?

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.