Do You Have a Therapy Pet?

A therapy pet, or therapy dog is usually classified as “AAA”. Sometimes they are just called Visiting Pets.

In order to benefit from pet therapy, the patient has to connect to the dog. Sometimes the handler or the hospital staff has no control at all over whether this happens at all. Sometimes the pet is used to lift the spirits and motivate an ailing or depressed person to move on with other activities. Grooming a dog is a very common suggested activity because it raises the self-esteem of the sick person as well as bonds him or her with the pet.

Sometimes a visit from a pet is it is merely something that breaks the routine. For others it is so deeply meaningful, they may talk about the visit for days afterward. Emotionally ill or mentally ill individuals may have withdrawn from human interaction, but will talk to the pet. This can give others insight into what a person who is deeply depressed is really thinking. It can also help a person who has had a stroke, as petting an animal is a very tactile activity.

Children have been known to use pets to express their feelings by projecting their own emotions and desires onto the dog. Even without the overview of a therapeutic program visiting pets can offer both physical and mental benefits. Residents are motivated to leave their rooms, become more physically active, and interact with others (usually because they are excited to tell others about their visit with the dog.)

There are numerous studies that show positive benefits in the animal-human interaction. Those studies are available through a variety of academic institutions, universities, colleges, and research organizations, Many studies are available on-line to individuals who have access to academic databases The best way to locate these studies is through university data bases.

Would your dog make a good therapy pet? It really does depend on your animal’s overall character. For some pets, as for some people, it is a welcome break in routine. Some love meeting lots of different people. Some enjoy the attention.

Other pets find visiting stressful because of the need to “behave” Or they find it stressful because the people they visit are unpredictable. Or they find the constant shifting from one person to another to be frustrating. Good things can be stressful and tiring, and that is often true with visiting dogs. They get home, they are tired and they sleep after they have performed a long day of service helping humans feel better. However some dogs are absolutely unreal in their ability to be friendly, loyal, gentle and faithful every minute a day and without tiring at all. These types of dogs, which are often in the herding breed category are incredible natural healers.


When it comes to therapy dogs you may have noticed that there is a lot of terminology. Here is a bit of a key as to how to demystify all of those acronyms that are used to describe dogs with various functions.

ATT stands for “Animal Assisted Therapy”. And AFT stands for “Animal Facilitated Therapy”. They are essentially the same thing.

However the Delta Society defines ATT as referring only to dogs that are assigned to a particular therapeutic protocol under the supervision of a professional. Unfortunately this has blurred the meaning of ATTT.

For example, in physical therapy (for a stroke) a treatment protocol would be written up with specific goals along the way such as the patient picking up a brush and stroking the dog five times. Eventually this leads up to the patient being able to attach the leash to the collar, pet the dog and walk the dog.

If the patient has social or mental problems it might be that the patient might simply be required focus on the dog for a certain number of time seconds – which increases over times eventually evolving into interaction. During all this records are kept as to the progress of the therapeutic treatment. That is “Animal Assisted Therapy” or AAT or AFT.

AAA stands for “animal assisted activities and it refers to animals that make generalized visits. Dogs making generalized visits to convalescent homes, hospitals, youth facilities etc. are called “animal assisted activities dogs.” People visited often receive a therapeutic effect but there is no treatment prescribed for how this can be achieved.

AAA dogs are people’s pets. The volunteers receive little or no training in therapeutic technique but the owner may have gotten into this as philanthropy after noticing that his or her pet gets along with others or that the pet has a calming presence.

In order to do well at AAA both you and your dog must be polite, social and well behaved but other than that no special training is required. Their role is to simply make life a little more pleasant for those in various treatment or residential facilities. People visited often receive a therapeutic effect but there is no treatment protocol for an individual patient.

In many cases the benefits offered by visiting pets are the same as those offered by Animal Assisted Therapy, the difference being that the there is no prescribed course of treatment and no recording of the effects on the individual. However these programs exist because they really do have benefits for all kinds of people including the infirm, the elderly and the mentally ill. Pets