As the saying goes, a dog is a man’s best friend. The dog is a loving companion to a man. He is happy to go everywhere with his master. He shows his affection for his master by wagging his tail and licking his hand or face. This timeless relationship continues to evolve into new kinds of human-dog interactions that increasingly benefit society.
This has led to the belief that dogs can provide company, affection and support to people who are going through a difficult time or who feel lonely. Dogs have aided humans in tasks such as hunting, livestock herding, and guarding. However, as society moved from small rural communities to increasingly large metropolitan areas, the dog’s role changed. Throughout the years a more specific type of canine has helped improve the quality of human life in many ways. These animals are known as therapy dogs. Therapy dogs have been tremendously helpful; providing physical and psychological stability for students and health patients, assisting federal governments to boost morale, and presently, studies are being done to substitute medication for therapy dogs.
The first type of therapy dog documented goes as far back as World War II. Corporal William Wynne had found an abandoned female Yorkshire Terrier in the New Guinea jungle early in 1944. He named her Smoky, and started to take care of her. In time, Smoky started to take care of him too in her own way. In fact she used to accompany Wynne on combat missions where she helped to lift his morale as well as provide some comfort during such a difficult time. Later, Wynne was hospitalized due to a jungle disease. Wynne’s colleagues took Smoky to cheer him up a bit. Smoky not only managed to entertain Wynne, but also the several other wounded soldiers who were being treated in the hospital. Having noticed her positive impact, his commanding officer, Dr. Charles Mayo, gave permission to Smoky to go on rounds around the hospital. As a result, Smoky became the first therapy dog we know of. (Visser 2013)
There are between 45 to 55 million dogs per household in America (American Humane Association 2012). Furthermore, according to a national survey, the majority of dog owners chose to get a dog for the companionship as the major reason for having a dog (American Animal Hospital Association, 2004). After all, dogs are nonjudgmental, give unconditional love, can be trusted with our most intimate feelings and emotions, and are highly intelligent. These dog characteristics can significantly enhance the lives of thousands of youth and adults, especially those with disabilities and/or those who live in continuing care facilities. There are approximately 20,000 service dogs in the U.S., which includes 10,000 guide dogs (American Humane Association 2012)
Most of the therapy dogs come from a selective breeding program known as the American Kennel Club (AKC). These dogs go through several months of obedience training and must be able to strictly follow commands. These dogs must also...