Furry Rehabilitation: How Dogs are Helping Patients Recover
Aidan entered drug rehab with a lot of skepticism. He knew he needed help, but he worried about handling detox, getting along with his therapist, and making new friends. But as soon as he checked in and met Rinaldo, Aidan felt better. Rinaldo’s not the intake counselor, therapist, or resident: He’s the rehab’s pet therapy dog. Whether you’re looking at drug rehab options for yourself or a loved one, wonder if your dog could help others, or simply love dogs, learn more about pet rehabilitation.
How Are Rehab Dogs Trained?
Ideally, therapy dog training begins at 16 weeks or four months of age. We all know puppies can be cute at that age, but they’re also ready to be separated from their litter and receptive to training. However, dogs of any age may qualify for therapy work. Likewise, any trainer can prepare pets to work in a rehab.
Additionally, an animal from any dog breed can be a therapy dog. That’s because all trained therapy dogs exhibit common characteristics. They are:
- Leash, crate, and house-trained
- Well-socialized around people and other dogs
- Relaxed around noise, traffic, and medical equipment like crutches or wheelchairs
- Obedient and compliant
- Able to stay, sit, and heel on command
- Mannerly and do not jump, bite, lick, growl, sniff, or bark inappropriately
- Medically healthy
- Used to being groomed, washed, and clipped
How Are Rehab Dogs Evaluated?
Once a potential therapy dog is trained, it’s ready to take the 10-step test and pass the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Program. It ensures that the dog is gentle, mannerly, obedient, and socialized. This program also tests the dog’s ability to work well with a handler.
Next, therapy dogs are evaluated by a therapy dog association. This evaluation ensures that the pets have the temperament and training they need to serve successfully in a rehab setting.
How Are Rehab Dogs Placed?
Rehabs can buy a trained pet, train their own dog, or use a trained dog that lives in a private residence nearby. That means you could sell your trained and certified pet to a facility. Or, if you live near a rehab, your trained pet could go to work helping people recover.
What Are the Benefits of Pet Rehabilitation?
I personally appreciate the fact that any dog, including rescued adult dogs, can be used for therapy in drug rehabs. These animals deserve a chance to be valued and to share their unconditional love. The dogs aren’t the only ones who benefit from pet rehabilitation, though.
Studies show that pet therapy can reduce the blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels of a recovering addict who likes dogs. It can also lower anxiety, tension, and anger. Pet rehab can increase endorphins, empowerment, and compassion while improving social function, self-esteem, and patience. I’ve seen dozens of recovering addicts transition from selfish to selfless, detached to attached, and hostile to friendly just because they spent time talking to and playing with a therapy animal.
Whether you’re entering drug rehab or looking for a way to make a difference, consider pet rehabilitation. A furry friend opens doors in a recovering addict’s life that people sometimes can’t. Tonight, give your dog an extra treat and be thankful for the pets who participate in furry rehabilitation and encourage addiction recovery.