Therapy animals play an important role in the lives of people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, hospices and retirement homes. The perfect therapy pet is well mannered, calm, easy going, friendly and eager to meet new people. If you think you and your pet would fit the bill of enriching the lives of others, maybe it’s time to have him certified as a therapy animal.
Canines are the most common animal used as a therapy pet, but horses, donkeys and cats are also quite effective. Hamsters, rabbits, birds and fish are excellent for people in assisted living settings or group homes. Just the presence of an animal can change the feel of a typical clinical environment to a more home-like setting, which helps to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Because you and your pet must be able to work together as a team, both of you must demonstrate specific abilities. As your pet’s handler, you must be able to read their body language to know if they are feeling stressed out, anxious, bothered by something, getting tired or becoming over-stimulated. You need to interact with your pet in a positive way by praising, encouraging, calming and re-directing them with appropriate commands when necessary. You must be able to carry on a conversation with someone while paying attention to your pet. You need to also be mindful of the well-being and safety of your pet at all times, and maintain a professional and polite attitude while helping people interact with your pet.