Ferret Care

Temperament for Animal Assisted Therapy  

Since the dawn of time human beings have used pets in various ways. Pet therapy is not something new, though it is something attracting more and more attention.  


By nature, most pets are nurturing, caring and supportive. Many therapists are now using pets as part of routine practice. They are very capable of helping patients overcome disabilities, emotional barriers to communication and positive therapy and beneficial for patients suffering from isolation, depression or loneliness. 


Keep in mind you don’t have to own a pet to benefit from Animal Assisted Therapy. Many therapists have their own animals they bring to therapy sessions. Volunteers often bring their own pets to assisted living facilities or hospice, to act as companions or playful friends to those in need of comfort. This form of therapy can dramatically improve the quality of life of anyone, in a simple, easy and unique manner. 


The American Kennel Club and Canine Good Citizen tests are often used to assess whether an animal meets the appropriate behavioural guidelines and socialization guidelines needed to provide supportive care.  


Anyone participating in AAT must recognize that all care is very objective or goal-oriented, thus a licensed professional should supervise all therapy sessions. Typically, an animal therapist engages with a team of experts to ensure successful outcomes. 


Most programs require dogs to be at least one year of age before evaluation. Evaluations will include health evaluations, obedience and behavioural evaluations and temperament. Of these the temperament test is often the most telling, as it places the dog or animal purposely in a stressful or emotional environment then encourages a response. What most trainers look for is a dog that will remain neutral in a setting where chaos, crowding or other stressors may be present.  


As an example, a dog may be exposed to a sudden loud noise. The evaluator will assess how much this stresses the animal and how the animal responds. Since the environments an animal will enter as a therapy dog are so diverse, it is important to assess how an animal will react. The goal here is to ensure the animal does not act in a violent or aggressive manner. Animal therapy sessions are truly enjoyable when you have an animal with a mild-mannered temperament.  


Some dogs are more amicable than others. For example, some of the more popular breed of dog used in AAT include: Labradors, German Shepherds, Sheepdogs and Golden Retrievers. 


Good therapy pets are usually those that are calm and enjoy socializing with others. If you own an attack dog, a herder, or other boisterous animal chances are they are not a good choice or option as an animal assisted therapy pet. 


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