Doing Therapy Work with Your Boston Terrier

Therapy work involves visiting people who are in hospital, a retirement care facility, or other type of residence where they may be unable to have a pet of their own. For many of the residents and patients, it’s an important chance to remember past dogs and enjoy some canine companionship. For the dog and handler, it is an opportunity to bring some joy into someone else’s life. With their natural love of people and small size, Boston Terriers can make excellent therapy dogs.

What’s Needed?

Therapy dogs need to remain calm and accept the attention of strangers. They cannot jump up on beds and laps uninvited. They need to remain quiet and do as their told. Although they do not need advanced obedience skills, some basic obedience is necessary. A therapy dog needs to be comfortable in strange situations and around unusual medical equipment that they might not otherwise encounter. Above all else, they need to be healthy since many of the people you visit will have health issues and possibly compromised immune systems and cannot afford to be put at risk by an ill animal.

For those who think they might be interested in pursuing therapy work with their Boston Terrier, the best thing to do is accompany a team on some visits to see what it is like. Some people may find it too distressing or simply be uncomfortable in these types of situations. If this is the case, therapy work may not be an ideal choice for you and your dog.

If you do decide that it interests you, the next step is to get certified. There are a number of different groups that certify therapy dogs including Delta Pet Society and St. John’s Ambulance. Some obedience schools also offer special courses to teach your dog the skills required of a therapy dog. Although not all facilities will require that you be certified, the vast majority will and it will make it much easier to find a place to volunteer if you and your dog are certified for therapy work.

Actual Visits

Different facilities do things in different ways and how your visits go will depend on you, your dog, and the places you visit. Some like to have group sessions where everyone gets to interact with the dog while others prefer to have you make visits one on one with patients and residents. You may choose to work with children, senior citizens, veterans, mentally disabled people, people with physical disabilities, etc. There are many different groups that welcome therapy dogs into their midst.

Dogs have been shown to benefit people in terms of their physical health by lowering blood pressure and relaxing them. They have also been shown to offer many mental benefits particularly to the elderly and the mentally disabled. You’ll need to decide what types of people you are most comfortable working with too. If you are uncomfortable or stressed during visits, your dog will sense it and react accordingly which helps no one. It’s important to be honest with yourself about your own abilities and preferences.

If you think that therapy work may be a good fit for you and your dog, start looking into accompanying an existing team on some visits. It can be a great way to bring joy to people. Think about how much joy your dog brings you. Next, imagine how sad you would be if you could not have a dog because of where you lived. If you cannot have a pet, the next best thing is to have a beloved pet visit you. This is a joy you and your Boston Terrier can share with others.

Photo credit: Barclay Nix/Flickr