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Profile of an Appropriate Therapy Dog

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BREED: Can
be any breed, but some breeds are more appropriate, due to general
personality traits. Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Greyhounds, and Collies
are examples of breeds which seem to be popular Therapy Dogs. Some
breeds tend to be too aloof, protective, or timid, but it is the
individual dog that is important to consider.

AGE: Should
be at least 1 year old, can continue as long as dog is physically and
mentally able. Young puppies should not be used in
AFT.

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SIZE: All
sizes of dogs can be used, from toys to giants. Special considerations
must be made for some- for example, patients who might be afraid of a
large dog, and being careful that a toy breed is handled gently, and
not stepped on!

HEALTH STATUS:
Must be up to date on vaccinations, negative fecal and heartworm exam,
and in overall good physical health. The dog must be clean and well
groomed, including clipped nails, free of eye and ear discharge, and
healthy teeth. All dogs should be examined by a licensed veterinarian
who can provide written proof of vaccinations and good health.

TEMPERAMENT:
Must have a stable, tolerant temperament, free of any signs of
aggression toward people or other dogs. A Therapy Dog must be
interested in people,. and of an outgoing nature. The dog must be able
to handle a reasonable amount of stress, and able to accept such
things as loud noises, sudden yelling and movements, the many pieces
of equipment and devices used in a health care facility, rolling
carts, and people who may look, sound and smell different to them.

*A
distinction should be made between a "Therapy Dog" as used
in this section and the same term as applied to animals simply used in
visits to persons who are ill. Canines used in rehabilitation are
actively used as adjuncts within a formal therapy (occupational,
physical, speech, TR) treatment session. The dog and handler work with
the therapist and patient within a treatment plan which has measurable
goals and documentation of the sessions become a part of the medical
record. A physicians order is required for patient participation in
Animal Facilitated Treatment. In addition to adhering to the
principles enumerated above ("Profile of An Appropriate Therapy
Dog"), an animal used in rehabilitation must be trained to
perform a number of advanced exercises within a hospital setting.