Therapy dogs

buzzardAugust 10, 2009

Have any of you ever taken your pet to the local hospitals/nursing homes for visitation with the patients/residents?

How was the experience?

I am thinking of doing this and would like to hear pros and cons from any of you.

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my best friends teacup Chi goes on visits. She mostly goes to retirement homes or nursing homes, she found the develomentally disabled people a bit too rough for her dog (top weight 3lbs) other than that, the dog ust be clean, certificates presented, and an orientation usually takes place. This was all done through a volunteer organization. Most of the "visits" last less than an hour. One major drawback is people trying to get you to commit to visiting them more or bringing them something which is against the rules. I suggest you contact the local volunteer organization or the places you are interested in visiting and determine their rules. Good luck

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 6:50PM
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It feels great. I didn't take my dog to a nursing home per se. We lived right next to an old age home and the seniors would sit outside everyday to wait for us to walk past. I always made sure we stopped by for a little visit. They loved it. Of course when I didn't necessarily have time for a visit it was always hard to disappoint them. But we saw them everyday...even in the winter some of them would brave the cold to come sit outside and wait for us.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 12:05AM
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Two of my Australian Shepherds are certified therapy dogs and we go to local nursing homes and hospitals and we participate in the children reading to dogs program at our local library. With my male, we are committed to one Sunday every month. My female is recovering from knee surgery so we have taken some time off as the lineoleum floors are too slippery for her. I love going as do my dogs. We are certified through Therapy Dogs International. (TDI) Check them out on line. Its a wonderful thing to do and the residents love it. Many non-communicative residents open up when we visit and the feedback we get from their family members who visit can bring tears to my eyes. For some dogs it is a bit overwhelming, so you have to know your dog and watch for signs of stress. My male especially eats up all the attention and its been nothing but a positive experience for all of us. Best of luck to you, I hope you find it as rewarding as we do.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:00PM
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I have certified 3 of my greyhounds as therapy dogs and we have been volunteering for over 5 years now. We love it. We have participated in a Reading Program for elementary school kids, and visit an Assisted Living and a residential home for the severely developmentally disabled weekly. It is truly rewarding. I try to match the activity to the dog's preference -- one adores children, one prefers seniors, and my boy just loves everyone! We keep our visits under an hour usually.

Not all facilities require official "TD" certification, but I think it is wise to get it if you can. I like having the insurance and found the *human* training and organizational support really useful. TDI is a great organization, as is Delta Pet Partners. The testing criteria for the dogs is online if you go to their respective sites. If neither have chapters near you, there are also many smaller local organizations that are excellent and some hospitals have their own pet therapy programs.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 3:18PM
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My DH had Alzheimer's. Several times, with permission, I took one of our dogs to see him. Most of the men were thrilled, but several were afraid.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 9:21AM
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My dog is also certified through TDI. We go once a week to a nursing home and we both love it. It's such a rewarding feeling.

I am also in the process of filling out paperwork to go to a terminally ill children's hospital, and in September my dog and I will begin visiting UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) for once a month assemblies (with about 60 children). Can't wait.

Several years ago I started the process of getting her certified through Delta Society, but it seemed so tedious. Maybe it is different now though. TDI was much easier in terms of time and steps to get the certification.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 8:43PM
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I just wanted to add that my dog is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, so the nursing home adults LOVE her! They really relate to her since most are in wheelchairs themselves. I'm sure it will be great for the CP kids to see that even dogs have disabilities. When she started using the wheelchair, that's when I decided to go back and finish the certification - so glad I did.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 8:47PM
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There is some research into the risk of therapy dogs acquiring MRSA and Clostridium dificile infections. One study found therapy dogs in health care settings were 6 times as likely to acquire MRSA than therapy dogs in non-health care settings. Good hygiene should minimize the risk to people. There is more information here:

Here is a link that might be useful: AVMA backgrounder on MRSA in therapy dogs

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 5:25PM
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Wow...I read that whole article and the FAQ's as well, and now I'm quite worried. The staff member who accompanies me and Sawyer on our visits to the geriatric hospital (which has both long-term and acute care floors) carries a container of sanitizing wipes for the patients to use AFTER they pet my dog. Sometimes I see these patients wiping their nose right before petting her, or their hands just don't look clean.

I now would like to ask her if she can have the patients use the wipes before AND after they pet her, but I don't feel very comfortable. Also, each patient only pets the dog for a minute or less due to the amount of patients that request pet therapy in the one hour we have to stick to - and I feel strange asking the recreational manager to wash the patient's hands before and after, when they are only petting the dog for a brief moment. I already know she'd be uptight to take up so much time, which I do understand since we are on a tight schedule.

For others here who volunteer in health care settings, what is the protocol there? If it is like mine, are you thinking of asking them to change it?


    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 11:07AM
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