Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) change lives but so can your dog by becoming a therapy dog. There are many jobs a well trained family dog can perform that will help raise awareness of the importance of service dogs in general and Psychiatric Service Dogs in particular. In addition to the basic training described below for therapy dogs a PSD requires specialized training to perform the specific duties required by their handlers. This can take many many months to complete.
Therapy dogs are trained to be good canine citizens as well as how to handle themselves in many situations. Not everyone gets to see a PSD in action but, in many places, everyday people can see how therapy dogs relax and sooth those around them even in some of the most stressful situations, fostering a broader understanding of how dogs may help and in some cases heal those with mental illness.
“A therapy dog is someone’s pet that is highly trained, can be easily controlled around other dogs, is very social and enjoys interacting with all ages and types of people and has been tested and certified through a recognized therapy dog organization.”
That’s quite a mouthful but it’s not good enough to just have a sweet easy going dog. You must be able to trust how he/she will react in almost any situation. Dogs and other therapy animals can make a world of difference in nursing homes, classrooms (read to a dog), family shelters and other places where people find themselves in need of a soothing presence.
If you’d like to give it a try, read this article for more information and resources.