Bringing the love and benefits of Therapy dogs to your school, university or workplace, Australia wide.
How is a Therapy Dog different to a School Support Dog? Or an Education Support Dog? A Library Dog, or even a Student Wellbeing Dog?
You may have seen a range of terms or references used for dogs in schools, but what does it all mean?
If we look at international research, the most consistent definition for a dog who.... provides affection, comfort and support to all kinds of people alongside their handler.... is a Therapy Dog!
The same intentions exist for the many dogs incorporated into schools, to improve student wellbeing, coping and provide comfort and support under the facilitation of the handler, thus regardless of title, this intention aligns with the definition of a Therapy Dog.
By introducing many different titles for dogs in schools we are adding to community confusion. It is important that people can easily identify the training standards and interaction rules for dogs which are indicative of the dogs title, regardless of the environment they are servicing.
We have talked to many schools who have chosen new terminology for their school Therapy Dog because they are so confused with the training and assessment requirements that they choose to avoid the title of Therapy Dog completely. We are offering a solution to this confusion! We are here to provide education (workshops) and consultancy to help make sense of best practice in Animal-Assisted Education.
I'd also like to acknowledge here that the state of NSW has consistently adopted the title of 'School Support Dog' which in this instance this title is interchangeable with Therapy Dog.
It is important that we get the terminology right because schools are in the business of education, and what students learn at school should be transferrable to society. It is critical that we recognise that Therapy Dogs are very different to Assistance Dogs, who are trained to provide exclusive support to a person with a diagnosed disability in order to improve their daily functioning and to access their community. Assistance Dogs need to focus on the needs of their person and we should NOT be allowing or encouraging students (or staff) to interact, pat and play with Assistance Dogs in our schools.
The recognition of a program that maintains standards of professional practice. In relation to Therapy Dogs this is a program which is recognised by the Animal Therapy community as providing ethical and high quality training which adheres to best practice principles and is delivered by experienced and suitably qualified trainers.
This is a type of Assistance Dog (or Service Dog), and also referred to as a Medical Alert Dog. These dogs are trained to alert a person that the onset of a medical condition is imminent. Common types include Seizure Alert Service Dogs and Diabetic Alert Service Dogs.
AAE is a planned and structured intervention using Therapy Dogs (or other animals) with specific academic or educational goals. AAE is directed and/or delivered by service providers from the education sector such as teachers or school staff.
AAI is a broad term which is commonly used to describe the utilisation of animals (including Therapy Dogs) in diverse manners beneficial to humans. Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal Assisted Education (AAE) are examples of AAI.
Note: The term, Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) appears to be being phased out in research literature and replaced with Animal Assisted Services.
AAT is a goal directed intervention using a range of therapeutic processes that intentionally include or involve animals (including Therapy Dogs) as part of the process.
AAT involves a trained dog and specialist practitioner or allied health professional working together to support improvements in the physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning of a person.
A generic term for a guide, hearing or service dog specifically trained to do three or more tasks to mitigate the effects of an individual's disability. Also known as a Service Dog in the USA, Assistance Dogs is the terminology used in Australia.
Note, the presence of a dog for protection, personal defence, or comfort does not qualify that dog as an Assistance Dog.
Assistance dogs are covered under a range of legislative access laws for public access rights when working with their disabled handler.
Upon successful completion of an accredited Therapy Dog program, a handler and their dog can become a certified Therapy Dog team. These means they have been assessed and met the required standard in a range of criteria which can include animal temperament, handling skills, demeanor, and manners.
Dogs must be at least one year of age to become a certified Therapy Dog.
This is essentially a pet! Our family pets can provide great benefits to our lives however their service is not formally recognised. They do not need to have formal training of any kind. They provide companionship and comfort to their owners and this can provide great psychological benefits.
Companion Animals do not have public access privileges and should not be taken to schools, workplaces or in public locations. They are not the same as Therapy Dogs.
A companion animal (pet) that provides informal emotional or psychological support to an individual with a mental health condition or emotional disorder simply by being present.
Emotional support animals do not receive the same training as assistance dogs and do not have public access privileges.
This tends to be a recognised category in the USA with little recognition in Australia.
The right of a person with a disability to be accompanied by his/her assistance dog in all public accommodations. Public access is granted to the person with the disability, not to the assistance dog.
The term Service Dog is the preferred term in the United States of America for what we in Australia call an Assistance Dog.
Assistance Dogs (Australia) or Service Dogs (USA) refers to a dog that works for people with a disability, excluding blindness or deafness. Service dogs may be trained to perform a wide range of tasks including, but not limited to, retrieving objects, alerting to a medical crisis, shifting a wheelchair, bracing, providing assistance in a medical crisis.
Therapy Animals are animals used in providing affection, comfort and support to all kinds of people, alongside their handlers. Many therapy animals are working with their handler to support individuals or groups to reach an identified goal, this could be educational, therapeutic, physical or even social. Therapy animal and handler teams complete specialist training to ensure they are complimentary to the service they are providing and to protect the safety of participants. Therapy dogs are often used in allied health settings, schools, and nursing homes to support the wellbeing and coping of individuals and groups.