It’s common for anyone going into rehab to be skeptical about the process. There may be certainty about how the treatment will go but there are some considerations that remain unknown. Among these things are the effect of detox, ability to make new friends in the rehab facility, and the connection with the therapist who will guide the person through the treatment.
All these concerns are legitimate and noted by the rehab center, so it has employed the services of a furry friend. Pet rehabilitation is an option for you or a loved one when seeking help to get over an addiction. It is one proven way to keep a person suffering addiction from being too ill given the effects of detox or feeling lonely because of the confinement in the facility.
Characteristics of Rehab Dogs
Rehab dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important qualification is their demeanor. They should be gentle, friendly, confident, patient, and at ease no matter what the situation may be. Human contact must be something that they enjoy. They should love to be cuddled, petted, and handled even by strangers.
Training ideally begins when the dogs are 16 weeks old or when they turn four months old. People might find them too young at this age to handle such a big responsibility, but they can already manage the separation of their litter and are responsive to training. Nevertheless, dogs older than four months may still train and qualify to become therapy dogs.
Aside from the demeanor already mentioned, there are other essential characteristics that a therapy dog must have. These include:
- Leash, crate, and house-trained
- Initiates contact and stays well-engaged around people and other dogs
- Easily adapts to smells
- Relaxed around noise, traffic, and medical equipment like crutches or wheelchairs
- Copes well with stressful situations
- Able to stay, sit, and heel on command even with toys or food around
- Mannerly and does not jump, bite, lick, growl, sniff, or bark inappropriately
- Medically healthy and has regular wellness check-ups
- Used to being groomed, washed, and clipped
- With rabies certificate and updated immunizations
Training for Pet Rehabilitation Dogs
Having the needed characteristics is not enough. The dogs must undergo training to prepare that furry friend for the task that lies ahead. Training involves:
- Letting the dog acquainted with new people, objects, places, and surfaces.
- Training for necessary behaviors needed for therapy like loose leash walking, leaving things, looking, and not jumping on anyone.
- Taking the dog to a Distraction Proofing class.
- Enrolling in therapy dog class which will cover preparation for therapy dog visits.
Evaluation of Pet Rehabilitation Dogs
Undergoing training is not the end-all of pet rehabilitation dogs. They need to be evaluated and pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Program. It is a 10-step test that evaluates the traits and readiness of the animal to become pet rehabilitation dogs.
All the steps are performed with the leash on. Owner or handlers are allowed to praise or encourage the dog throughout the screening, but food and treats are prohibited. It looks into the manner, obedience, gentleness, and socialization of the pet as well as how well it works with a handler. Finally, therapy dogs are evaluated by a therapy dog association. This is to make sure that the pets have the training and temperament needed to be successful in a rehab setting.
Placement of Rehab Dogs
The rehab center can do all the work. This means it can buy its own pet, train it themselves or have it trained by competent professionals and seek for its evaluation. After going through the rigorous process, they can have the pet rehabilitation dogs walking around the center to provide assistance.
It is also possible for the facility to engage the services of a trained and certified dog. These pets simply go to the rehab center to do their work and return home thereafter. These services may be provided by an organization or an individual who has the kind of dog required to do the job.
Benefits of Pet Rehabilitation Dogs
Numerous studies have backed the benefits of using dogs to help treat substance addiction. People going through rehab can experience:
- reduced blood pressure
- normal heart rate
- lesser stress levels
- lowers tension, anxiety, and anger
- improved social function
- better self-esteem
- increased endorphins
- sense of empowerment
There are many individuals recovering from addiction who transform from being selfish, hostile and detached to someone who is selfless, friendly and attached because of the time they spent with pet rehabilitation dogs. Those times spent talking and playing with therapy dogs has also changed how patients engage with others.
If you or someone you know is looking into getting treatment, pet rehabilitation is something worth considering. Opening oneself to a furry friend can actually make so much difference for a successful recovery.