Therapy Dog Certification History: Northern Virginia

Therapy Dog Northern Virginia
While we do a lot of therapy dog training at our facility in Northern Virginia, many do not know the history of the therapy dog.

Dogs have always been man’s best friend. While they may have started out as assistants for early man’s hunting expeditions, they have evolved into being spiritual companions on the journey of life. They are members of the family for humans the world over. Today, their role as family pets has evolved even further as they step into their new role of being therapy dogs.

Therapy dogs are used extensively in many settings within hospices, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, retirement homes, and rehabilitation homes. They offer solace and support to people with varying degrees of physical and emotional needs. They are often also clubbed as assistance or service dogs.

The history of therapy dogs can be traced back to World War II, when a dog named Smoky was found abandoned on a battlefield, adopted by a soldier, and later was allowed in the hospital as a companion to the wounded soldiers and their friends, which he continued doing for 12 long years.

In 1976, the first therapy dog training program was started by a registered nurse, Elaine Smith, who had observed the difference that visiting dogs had on patients in the hospital where she worked. It was not until 1982, that a new program was started to have therapy dogs assist with the severely disabled among children. This was called the Tender Loving Zoo and was started by Nancy Stanley.

Therapy dogs today have had a lot of research to back up the experiential claims of their beneficial effects on humans. Research has shown that therapy dogs increase the levels of dopamine and oxytocin in the brain, which leads to increased satisfaction and bonding. Therapy dogs also help to increase confidence levels in children with learning disabilities. They help provide support and socialization to children with autism. Therapy dogs also provide stress release to school and college students in the United States by visiting them on campus in an event called Therapy Fluffies.

The best part about therapy dogs is that there is no age limit to their appeal. They can just as easily break the ice with a three-year-old as they can with a ninety-year-old. Therapy dogs often do not live with people who need their help, as service dogs do. Therapy dogs often visit different organizations, schools, retirement homes, hospitals, hospices, etc., along with their owners and return with the owners to their own homes at the end of their session. They are not exclusively trained to deal with specific tasks and assignments, as service dogs are.

Any dog can be trained to be a therapy dog (as long as no major behavioral issues), but there are some dogs that are specially preferred as therapy dogs due to their innate nature. An example of such dogs would be the Golden Retriever, which is very popular as therapy dogs the world over. This is due to the fact that they are very easy going, affectionate, and loving. They are very patient with children and have a light-hearted demeanor that makes them the perfect therapy dog!

Are you interested in having your dog become a certified therapy dog? If so, contact Off Leash K9 Training!


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Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

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