From before recorded history, dogs have been a constant companion to people. Dogs have worked besides people, but also have been welcomed into their homes as a member of the family. It's not surprising, then, that dogs have also been called upon to assist people with physical disabilities and getting through tough times in their lives.
Therapy dogs are brought into hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and other institutions to provide a variety of services. Therapy dogs are not service dogs, and are not afforded the same protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is because service dogs give their owner direct assistance, without which they would not be able to perform everyday functions on their own. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, while providing a noble service, are not a necessary part of rehabilitation. For the most part, they can't provide anything quantifiable to the people they visit. Legally, they are no different from anyone who wants to bring a pet into these institutions; however, licensed therapy dogs go through extensive training to perform their duties.
The Miniature Australian Shepherd makes a wonderful therapy dog for several reasons. First, and most importantly, is the breed's temperament. The Miniature Australian Shepherd is an easy-going breed that loves to play. Affectionate, courageous, and loyal, they love to spend time with people, and also love to please. The breed is also highly intelligent, so the extensive training involved with becoming a therapy dog will not overwhelm a Miniature Australian Shepherd. To the benefit of the dog itself, this job can provide the mental challenge and the physical activity needed for a health and happy Miniature Australian Shepherd.
Although their work may not be quantifiable, therapy dogs are adept at providing a focus and a conduit for people to participate in therapy needed in their recovery. In general, therapy dogs can provide a feeling of general well being for a variety of people, including the elderly, children, or people admitted to hospitals. The happy-go-lucky Miniature Australian Shepherd can bring smiles to many faces by just showing up. Therapy dogs also assist in encouraging people with communication problems to opening up and express themselves verbally. The quiet Miniature Australian Shepherd is the perfect breed to lend an ear. Therapy dogs also encourage physical therapy, including playing catch and providing the motivation to move to the dog. This is where the Miniature Australian Shepherd's want to please can benefit.
There are several organizations dedicated to informing the public about Therapy Dogs, as well as training and certifying dogs. A wonderful Web site with information and plenty of links to the multitude of organizations is Service and Therapy Dogs from Professor Hunt's Dog Page, which can be found at