Pet Therapy Resources

Visiting with animals can help people feel less lonely, and less depressed. Visits from dogs can provide a welcome change from routine, or the renewal of old friendships. People become more active and responsive both during and after visiting with animals. An animal visit can offer entertainment, or a welcome distraction from pain and infirmity. People often talk to the dogs, and share with them their thoughts and feelings and memories. Animal visits provide something to look forward to. Stroking a dog or cat can reduce a person’s blood pressure. Petting encourages use of hands and arms, stretching and turning.

“Visiting Pets” “Therapy Dogs” “Therapy Pets” are just some of the names given to describe programs in which animals help people just by visiting with them. As participation in such programs grows so does the vocabulary describing different aspects of pet visiting. For example, the preferred use for the term “Animal Assisted Therapy” is for formal treatment programs, usually involving one particular animal and handler assigned to one particular client. The handler and the health care provider consult on specific goals to be accomplished, and plan how to accomplish those goals. The preferred use for more informal programs is “Animal Assisted Activities.”

Getting involved in Animal Assisted Therapy is not simply a matter of showing up at the door of the nearest care facility. You will need to ensure that your dog is ready, to find appropriate facilities to visit, and protect yourself from potential liability.

Is Your Dog Both Calm and Friendly?

In deciding whether to take your dog on visits honestly evaluate your dog’s personality and social skills. How does your dog react to strangers on the street and in your home. Does your dog tend to jump up in friendly excitement? Does your dog pull back when someone extends their hand? Does your dog avoid being petted by strangers, or seek it out?

A good prospect for therapy work will enjoy meeting strangers, will actively approach, but in a calm manner. A dog that is so happy it jumps up, or pushes with feet, body or nose, will need some work before visiting can begin. A dog that is fearful or aggressive probably should not be considered for therapy work.

This evaluation is partly one of good manners, but also one of personality. That a dog can behave appropriately on a visit doesn’t mean the dog will enjoy the visits. Let me give an example. My dog Tsuki has good manners. He does not jump on people uninvited. But notice the qualifying word “uninvited.” He does in fact jump on people quite often, because quite often he is invited. And those are the people he really enjoys being around. Think of it as like a person with a loud hearty laugh. They may be able to have a pleasant time while restraining themselves, but to really enjoy themselves, to relax, they want to be where they can laugh. I want the dog I’m taking to think the visit itself is a real pleasure.

If you are looking for a visiting pet, therapy dog or animal assisted activities group to join, for registration or volunteers to visit your facility start here.

Before visiting with your pet you should get some objective evidence that your pet has an appropriate temperament. Testing will, at minimum, evaluate the dog’s appropriate temperament and behavior. Usually the dog is also evaluated for health, freedom from parasites and contagious disease, and immunization status for human transmittable disease. Testing and registration is important for the protection of you, your dog, the people you visit, and the good reputation of pet visitation programs. You should not even consider visiting without insurance and you will need evidence of your pet’s appropriate behavior and temperament to qualify for insurance.

The group you join will give you specific instructions about preparing for a visit. This is a general overview.

Books and Guides on Pet Therapy Programs

There are a variety of publications available, even some videos, that can help you learn to get your dog ready for animal assisted therapy visits. Some you can purchase in any major bookstore, others you can order. Some of these books and guides I found by searching my local library system. I have indicated the library where they are stored, most are at University of California, Davis. That does not mean that they aren’t available to you locally. The call letters for some of the publications listed should help you locate similar publications in your own library. Check with your local university and college libraries as well as general public libraries or check with various book sellers. In some cases I have included links to Dogwise.com, a wonderful seller of dog related books, video tapes and other items. I may receive a commission for purchases made using those links.

Therapy Dogs, Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activities Links


This section covers web sites providing information on how to train for visits, how to start your own group, or academic studies.


Stories and Articles on Therapy Dogs, Animal Assisted Therapy, Animal Assisted Activities, Visiting Pets and the Human-Animal Bond

You can learn a little bit more about visiting dogs, or you can look at some of the other neat things you can do with your dog. Maybe you’d like to read about some of visits. You can also read all about Oso and see some pictures on Oso’s Home Page.

Policies and Guidelines for Animals Health Care Facilities; Stories of Visits to Health Care Facilities; A Side of Humor with a Dash of Truth

ATT stands for “Animal Assisted Therapy”. AFT stands for “Animal Facilitated Therapy”. They are essentially the same thing. What the terms mean depends upon whom you ask. Some organizations apply a rather strict definition. See, for example, the Delta Society’s pagehttp://www.deltasociety.org/aboutaaat.htm. There is no legal definition so across the United States many organizations use the terms much more broadly than does the Delta Society.

Pets in prisons and other animal facilitated rehabilitation programs

Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care, LLC provide resources and services for Health Care Professionals and Care Givers. Recreation Therapists, Activity Directors, Social Workers, Creative Arts Specialists, and other health care workers utilize this site to obtain information and purchase products for use in nursing homes and long term care facilities. Products and resources include sensory stimulation products, relaxation videos, party supplies, care plans, activity calendars, and more. For additional resources visit our associate site the Therapeutic Recreation Directory atwww.recreationtherapy.com. To become certified in Dementia Care go to www.nccdp.org.

These lists are very helpful in networking. Most lists are intended for warm and friendly conversation for sharing information and experiences. They work best when people contribute, even those who are new. While people will offer advice it will be of better quality if you let them get to know you.

Share this article
Article Categories: