A therapy dog is trained to be brought into a hospital, school, nursing home or any stressful/disaster situation, and provide affection and comfort to the people there. It does not matter the breed of the dog, but instead the temperament and the ability to be calm and friendly in all situations and settings.
A Brief History
A female Yorkshire terrier, whom he ended up naming Smoky, was found by a corporal by the name of William Wynn during World War II. Not only did Smoky assist with many dangerous combat missions to help the troops during enemy fire, but served as the first therapy dog known. When the corporal was hospitalized with jungle disease, fellow army troops brought Smoky to visit Wynn to cheer him and the other wounded soldiers up. Smoky was permitted by Dr. Mayo of the Mayo Clinic to make rounds and visit the recovering soldiers, and continued to be a therapy dog for the next 12 years.
Elaine Smith, a registered nurse who was once stationed in England, can be accredited with establishing a program for trained dogs to visit institutions after she noted the therapeutic effect that the dogs had on patients. The therapy dogs not only helped adults by relieving stress, lowering their blood pressure and providing overall happiness, they also were noted to help children overcome emotional and speech disorders.
Therapy Dogs Today
Today, therapy dogs continue to bring joy, laughter and comfort to many adults and children who may be in need of an extra lifting of the spirits. Scientific research suggests that therapy dogs do in fact have a direct affect on the body, and can help lower cortisol while boosting dopamine levels. The dogs are required to go through testing and in the United States often have to pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. Along with this, the dogs may also have to prove that they are able to handle people who may be in wheelchairs or have a disability, and are not frightened by sudden or loud noises.
Many inspiring people are reaching out with the use of therapy dogs to help others in need.
Check out this great article about dogs that assist children to learn how to read!