A therapy animal works in a practice with his handler or in a home environment, where the parent or caregiver has ultimate responsibility.
These animals can be trained to help people with, for example, autism in their everyday lives, for companionship, social interaction and helping to create structure and to ease the feeling of loneliness.
All kinds of animals can be trained and used for this purpose; parrots, chickens, dogs, cats, horses, ponies, donkeys, etc…
An animal trained for therapy work can stimulate a person’s motivation to learn, helping to overcome fear and stimulating the imagination. People are less self conscious in the presence of an animal because they do not feel that the animal is judging them, the animal accepts them as they are. People are attracted to a friendly animal and this helps them to venture out from their own world or situation. Through contact with a therapy animal people feel safer and more relaxed, they become more balanced and calmer. Contact with other humans becomes easier as self esteem is built up. Moreover, they learn to take responsibility for the care of another being, their therapy animal.
Assistance dog is the general umbrella term used for dogs that are trained to assist anyone with a disability.
• A service dog is specially trained for people with mobility impairments.
• A hearing dog is a dog that is trained to aid people with a hearing impairment. .
• A guide dog is a dog trained for helping the blind and visually impaired
• A registered seizure response dog is a dog that is trained to assist people with epilepsy and give warning of an impending seizure.
Testing whether an animal is suitable for training as a therapy animal or service dog
Out of respect for the general welfare of the animal, its well-being and health (physical and mental), I prefer to see an animal that likes its job. Primarily I think it’s more important to work on mutual respect between humans and animals than pure obedience and simply training a dog to do a job. If the animal likes you and enjoys its work then it will gladly work for you.
If I determine that an animal simply does not enjoy the tasks he will be asked to perform, then in my opinion he is not fit for the job. Maybe these tasks are a bridge too far for this animal. For an animal to do their job to the best of their ability they must basically enjoy doing it.
I believe this because of my experience in carrying out behavioural tests on animals trained or in training as service dogs and therapy animals, for example with the ’Therapiedier’ Association. I clearly have a difference of opinion with many of my colleagues and also some people hoping to acquire an assistance or service dog.
In our society we are used to being offered choices at the click of a button. Our food is put in the microwave and after 2 minutes it is ready to eat. We use our mobile phones and expect an instant reply, we chat online and email friends and family worldwide, everything must be instantly accessible, but animals are neither devices nor robots. You can not just push a button and expect results. You have to make an effort and first put something in before expecting to get something back, even then you will need to make adjustments and continue to learn together.
However in this day and age we expect immediate results and satisfaction.. We have no patience and even less when it concerns animals. After all we have the right to expect them to be grateful and nice to us, or not?
It is our responsibility to put a stop to these expectations of immediate gratification, especially when animals are involved. A dog will not automatically be house trained after a few days, even after a few weeks or perhaps months, a cat will naturally want to sharpen its claws and will initially make no difference between your furniture and a toy provided for this purpose, a horse is not born knowing how to carry a saddle and a rider, a therapy animal has its own character and emotions and is not a device, on call 24/7 etc…
You cannot just put an animal in a box and take it out when it suits you.
According to the latest survey, the average owner in the Benelux spends only 6 minutes per day playing or petting their dog (not counting time spent on walks which are of course mandatory for a dog ) .
If you consider yourself to be an animal lover then it is your duty to take these things into account and to avoid buying an animal on impulse! It is also your responsibility to open your eyes to animal suffering and cruelty, such as puppy farms etc…
Nowadays, with modern forms of communication, you no longer have the excuse “I did not know – ich habe es nicht Gewußt “.
What is your opinion regarding therapy animals, assistance dogs and other animals with a job?
I look forward to reading your comments in the area below..