Therapy Dogs are placed with families and individuals who need a dog to assist a person with a disability. That disability may be physical, emotional, intellectual or developmental in nature. Therapy Dogs can help improve the quality of life of someone with a developmental or social disability. People who have a physical disability and require some, but not all, of the physical assistance provided by a service dog may be granted a Therapy Dog. Children who for age reasons are not able to manage a Service Dog may apply for a Therapy Dog as the first step towards working with a Service Dog in adulthood.
A Therapy Dog must provide a service to the person with a disability which goes beyond what a normal, well trained pet dog could provide. If what you require of a Therapy Dog could be attained through the companionship provided by an obedient adult pet dog then your application is not likely to be successful. Many of the applications that are received for Therapy Dogs request support that could easily be provided by any well trained pet dog and these applications must receive a lower priority than those where specialist training is genuinely necessary.
Therapy Dogs are not:
- Pets for people with disabilities- you must receive a tangible benefit from the Therapy Dog beyond mere enjoyment. Tangible benefits may include: the ability to go into public when you otherwise couldn't; physical therapeutic benefits such as muscle strengthening and supporting; and increased social interaction with your peers when it was not possible before.
- just there to provide constant love - while this is a highly valuable attribute of dogs, it can be done by any pet dog
- provided solely to alleviate loneliness, or to provide motivation
You will be required on your application form to list the tasks that the Therapy Dog will be required to do for you which classify it outside of the pet dog category.
Therapy Dogs are all selected specifically based on the information provided in your application to ensure you receive the dog that is perfect for you.
Training Standards for Therapy Dogs
In addition to fulfilling all of the standards that each Canine Helpers dogs is required to fulfill, Therapy Dogs also meet the following criteria:
- All Therapy Dogs must have completed a minimum of 50 hours of training.
- All Therapy Dogs must have spent a minimum of 3 months in training with a Canine Helpers trainer.
- Therapy Dogs have spent at least 24 hours training in high distraction public places.
- Therapy Dogs have been obedience trained to a standard that would allow their new handlers to compete in Australian National Kennel Council Obedience Trials if they wished to. Some Therapy Dogs may have already competed if time has allowed.
- Therapy Dog recipients complete a five day training course.