HomeNewsJun 14, Therapy Dogs: Think Your Dog Has What it Takes?

    Jun 14, Therapy Dogs: Think Your Dog Has What it Takes?

    by Alison
    O’Callaghan   |Last Updated 06-14-2022

    Why Small Breeds Make Great Therapy

    have long been considered man’s best friend with their loyalty and
    companionship, which is why they often make excellent therapy dogs.

    What are They?

    A therapy dog is comforting a man in the hospital

    service dogs assist and help (e.g. guide dogs for the blind), a therapy dog’s
    sole purpose is to soothe people.

    are used to provide affection and comfort for those in hospitals, retirement
    homes, hospices, and schools, as well
    providing emotional support to victims in disaster areas.

    have shown that they can help the concentration and memory of patients with
    Alzheimer’s disease and encourage children with autism to be more socially
    engaged and less aggressive.

    do much to reduce stress, anxiety, and
    depression, providing enjoyment and entertainment, while serving as a
    distraction for those who are ill and in pain.

    dogs have also greatly benefited children with reading difficulties in schools.
    Reading aloud to a dog gives a child confidence as they don’t fear being judged
    or ridiculed for making mistakes.

    Smoky – First Therapy Dog

    Smoky, the first therapy dog during World War IIPhotograph from Yank magazine & Wikipedia

    first recorded therapy dog was a little Yorkshire Terrier called Smoky, who
    served in World War Two.

    American soldier discovered Smoky in a deserted foxhole in New Guinea. He sold
    her for the equivalent of $6.44 to another soldier, Bill Wynne, so that he
    could continue a poker game.

    trained and taught her to do tricks as well as accompanying him on various
    combat missions.  She first started her
    role as a therapy dog in 1944 when Bill became ill with dengue fever and
    hospitalised. His comrades brought Smoky to the hospital, and the nurses took
    her to see other sick and wounded soldiers, cheering them up.

    Smoky continued with her therapy visits for
    twelve years, during and after the war. She was often seen on stage with Bill,
    performing tricks, and appeared on TV shows in the U.S.A. She finally retired
    in 1954.


    1976, Elaine Smith, a nurse in the U.S.A., started a training program for
    therapy dogs after seeing the benefits of a chaplain who visited her patients
    with his Golden Retriever.

    therapy dog can be a pure breed, crossbreed, show champion, rescue case or
    family pet
    , and can be large, medium or small. Most vital is that it has a calm
    and gentle temperament.

    dog must be at least one-year-old, in excellent health, with all vaccinations
    up-to-date, and free of fleas and ticks.

    needs to have basic obedience, be well-behaved and able to get along with other
    dogs. It is essential that they love interacting with people, be accepting of
    strangers, and can wait until a person touches it, without getting

    dog must also be able to adapt to and handle different environments and
    situations, such as hospitals.

    The handler will be required to have
    background checks before they can volunteer, and must know their dog well,
    working together as a team.

    you are interested in your pet becoming a certified therapy dog, you need to
    contact your local therapy dog group. They will have your dog evaluated to see
    if it meets the necessary requirements and organised training for you.

    Small Breeds Used as Therapy Dogs

    dogs make ideal therapy dogs as they are easy to lift onto beds and easier to
    , making them suitable for the sick, elderly and children. They are also
    not so intimidating for people who may be nervous or afraid of dogs.

    following are various breeds of small dogs suitable for the role:

    Yorkshire Terrier

    Yorkies are favorite therapy dogs

    Yorkshire Terrier –  gentle and easy to train, they make perfect
    lap dogs.

    Although tiny in size, their big personality,
    and calm nature makes them ideal for children with autism

    Read about the Yorkshire Terrier

    Toy Poodle

    The toy poodle makes an excellent choice for a therapy dog.

    Toy Poodle –  intelligent and obedient they can be trained
    to do tricks and entertain patients in the hospital.

    They are hypoallergenic so
    good for those with allergies.

    Great with all people but some can be nervous
    around small children

    Read about the Toy Poodle

    Corgi: Cardigan & Pembroke

    Corgi is a good choice for a therapy dog.

    Corgi – a firm favourite of Queen Elizabeth
    II, they are even-tempered and affectionate.

    Obedient and friendly, they are
    good companion dogs especially for the elderly

    Read about Corgis

    King Charles Spaniel

    (Also Called
    English Toy Spaniel)

    King Charles Spaniel

    King Charles Spaniel: their kind and warm
    nature make them excellent for children of all ages, along with adults.

    are very friendly and can help those with emotional problems.

    Read about the King Charles Spaniel


    A Dachshund would make a good therapy pet

    Dachshund – small with little legs, they are
    good with children of all ages.

    Affectionate and playful, they are ideal for
    those suffering from depression, autism,
    and anxiety.

    Read about the Dachshund


    Beagles are often used in therapy work

    Beagles – loving nature, they enjoy being
    around both dogs and other people. Due to their outgoing and fun personalities,
    they are good with all children. Perfect for those suffering from anxiety, depression, and emotional problems

    Read about Beagles


    Pugs make good therapy dogs

    Pug – sweet nature, they make excellent
    companion dogs.

    They love everyone and are suitable for the elderly, those with
    depression and children with Attention Deficit problems.

    Read about the Pug

    the end of the day, though, it is not the breed but the dog itself that is

    you  are interested in getting
    more information about training your dog, the AKC Canine
    Good Citizen award
    is a way to begin in the U.S.  

    in the US, Pet Partners  is a good place to
    do more research and register your dog.

    you live in Canada and want additional information, Canada’s Guide To Dogs is
    a good place to begin your research.

    your canine friend can be a rewarding experience and will
    bring much joy and pleasure to many.

    Article by Alison

    I adore all
    animals, especially dogs and horses, and love writing about them. I have owned
    Miniature Schnauzers
    in the past and currently have a Toy Poodle called Lucy, who I adopted. I work professionally
    with horses and bring Lucy to the stables every day.

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