Indies can be therapy dogs

Indian dogs are calmer and are being trained to help special needs kids

Dogs have proved themselves to be care providers for many years now. So much so that some breeds are also considered to be therapy dogs. They are trained to provide comfort, affection and unconditional love to children, children with special needs, patients and the elderly.

Golden Retrievers and Labradors are usually the breeds that are considered to take on this role, but lately, we’ve been realising that our very own Indie dogs are quite the help as well. 

Sudha Narayanan, founder trustee of Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre (CARE), says that Charlie, the indie, was a therapy dog for many years for children. “He was a very naughty pup even with his disability,” Sudha tells Metrolife

“But one day, when spastic children visited the shelter, we saw a whole new side of Charlie. He was extremely calm and patient around them. That’s when we decided to train him to become a therapy dog. We felt that he may be able to relate to the children as he was disabled too,” she adds. 

So how does a dog become a therapy dog? Veterinarian Dr Lohith explains, “During the initial evaluation, you have to ensure that the dog is healthy, vaccinated and does not have any contagious conditions as they will be dealing with children with special needs. Then we take the time to understand through their behaviour if they can handle certain situations — how they react to other dogs, with strangers, with normal children and then with special needs children.”

That’s when you socialise the dog, get them used to being around people and animals. Jumping and walking on a loose leash is also tested. The dog needs to be focused. 

CARE now has Stumpy, another Indie who frequents the special aids school to help the children. “It depends on the kind of sessions that the parents or school are looking for. It can be individual or group sessions. Having the dog in the classroom itself has shown immense change in the students,” Sudha says. 

Autistic kids find it easier to interact and learn with dogs around. Sudha adds, “The dogs help them speak and learn new things as they don’t have any expectations. So their comfort level is higher and they let their guard down. In fact, they even string beads and make the dogs accessories.” 

One of the myths that people tend to believe that dogs, especially Indies who have gone through traumatic situations may not be good therapy dogs. To this, Dr Lohith says, “There is absolutely no difference between a bred dog and an Indie. In fact, Labradors are a lot hyper as they tend to get excited and can jump on people. It’s not the case with the Indies; they are calmer.”

Pet dogs can be therapy dogs too

As long as the child with special is monitored when he or she is with the dog, it will be fine. You will never know how the children might react around the dog and while they are trained to handle all situations, sometimes there’s only so much tolerance that they have in them. However, owning a therapy dog does make the child responsible.

Age factor

Dogs between the age of 1 to 8 years old make good therapy dogs, provided that their health is in good condition.

Other animals

Rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters are considered therapy animals too. Spending time and interacting with them has considered a form of therapy.

The training process includes:

Teaching them to walk on a leash
Doing mock sessions where they are suddenly stopped, making loud noises, pulled from behind, touching them randomly, falling and grabbing them by their tail to know how they will react.
It’s important to ensure that there are no external stimuli during training. The dog needs to be completely focused in understand that he or she is helping the child.
If you wish to take your dog for training, contact CARE 94839 11110.

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