Mandy, owner of the East Sussex branch of Animals at Home and dog behaviourist, tells us about how her rescue dog Daisy became a fully fledged therapy dog.
1. What is a therapy dog, who would use one and why?
A therapy dog is a calm, balanced dog who is confident and happy to be around people. Therapy dogs help all sorts of people from elderly people in care homes who miss having contact with a dog, to young children with learning difficulties who gain confidence when they have a therapy dog with them. They bring some comfort and companionship, and lots of happy vibes.
2. What kind of dog is Daisy, and when did you first consider applying for her to be a therapy dog?
Daisy is a rescue English bulldog cross Staffordshire bull terrier. A year ago I was admitted to hospital for two days with a kidney infection. My family were able to visit me but I missed Daisy so much and it made me think about people in care homes and hospices who must really miss contact with a pet. While in hospital I applied to Pets As Therapy and eight months later Daisy became a fully fledged PAT dog.
3. Tell us about the process of Daisy becoming a therapy dog?
After the initial application, Daisy had to undergo a behavioural test with a local dog behaviourist which she passed with flying colours. The next stage was the necessary paperwork to show the she had up-to-date vaccinations, and I had to undergo a CRB check. Once everything was processed we were put in touch with our local PAT dog co-ordinator who helped place us with a local establishment looking for a PAT dog.
4. How often does Daisy perform her duties, and do you attend?
Daisy and I volunteer once a week for one hour in a special needs school. I have to be with her at all times, it is one of the requirements of her being a PAT dog.
5. What reaction does she typically get from the people she visits?
The children (and teachers!) at school are always excited to see her and when she joins them in their particular sessions (reading, interaction, sensory room) the children relax around her and open up. It also helps the nervous ones build confidence around dogs.
6. Are there any distinct characteristics that all therapy dogs must have?
Above all, a calm energy. Obviously they have to be trustworthy and they must be happy doing what they do, which Daisy is.