Anyone who owns a dog can tell you that the bond they share with their furry friend is pretty special. For many seniors, a specially trained service or therapy dog can enrich their lives immeasurably. Today, dogs are trained to help seniors with a range of concerns—from managing a disability to providing unconditional love and companionship.
Dogs trained to assist their owners with a disability are called “service dogs.” These dogs have special status by law and are allowed in public places. Dogs can be trained to provide assistance with many types of physical, mental or emotional disabilities including:
Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are trained for companionship and emotional support, but do not have the same status as service dog to enter public places. There are several types of animal-oriented therapy, and each one delivers different benefits for different conditions.
- Visitation therapy: This is the most familiar type of therapy in which dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, or senior centers to interact with residents and patients. Residents get the loving attention of a dog without the necessary care requirements, which is beneficial in facilities where pets are not permitted.
- Ownership therapy: Dog ownership is often recommended by conventional and alternative medical practitioners for its physical, mental and emotional benefits. Individuals interested in ownership therapy, however, should carefully consider the needs and requirements of the animal when choosing a new companion.
- Animal-assisted therapy: This is a more intensive type of therapy where patients in need of extreme rehabilitation are paired with incredibly sensitive dogs as part of an intensive therapy regime. Interacting with the animals can build confidence as well as refine physical skills.
If you are interested in acquiring a service or therapy dog, consult your doctor and a reputable assistance dog organization such as Assistance Dog International or Pet Partners. In honor of International Assistance Dog Week (IADW), we would like to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs that help us in more ways than we could ever imagine.
Assistance Dogs International
International Assistance Dog Week
Therapy Dogs United