Dog Therapy Appreciation Day Date in the current year: April 11, 2024

Dog Therapy Appreciation Day Dog Therapy Appreciation Day is celebrated annually on April 11 to raise awareness of canine-assisted therapy and show appreciation for therapy dogs and their handlers.

Dog therapy, also known as canine-assisted therapy, is an alternative or complementary type of therapy that includes the use of dogs in a treatment to improve a patient’s emotional, social, or cognitive functioning. It is one of the most common types of animal-assisted therapy, alongside equine-assisted therapy (horse therapy).

Therapy dogs can improve the mental health of patients in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, and other settings through socialization and body contact, help patients with physical therapy, assist people in overcoming grief, etc.

Therapy dogs should not be confused with assistance dogs. The main purpose of assistance dogs (service dogs) is to aid or assist individuals with disabilities with physical tasks, whereas therapy dogs are trained to provide affection, comfort, and support to people in a variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, disaster areas, hospices, etc. However, some organization can certify dogs as both.

The history of modern dog therapy can be traced back to the late 19th century, when Florence Nightingale noticed that small pets help reduce anxiety and improve recovery in institutionalized children and adults. Sigmund Freud used his own pet dog to improve communication with patients in the 1930s.

The first modern organization for testing and certifying therapy dogs, Therapy Dogs International, was founded in 1976 by Elaine Smith, a registered nurse from England who noticed that patients’ spirits were lifted after visits from the hospital chaplain’s Golden Retriever. After that, other canine-assisted therapy societies began to emerge.

In order to get certified as a therapy dog, the dog should be calm and social with strangers, as well as able to adjust to unexpected movements and loud noises, walk on a loose leash, and not jump on people. Therapy dogs are not limited to a certain breed, but some breeds are more often used in canine-assisted therapy than others. They include the Golden Retriever, the Labrador Retriever, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Portuguese Water Dog, and the St. Bernard.

Dog Therapy Appreciation Day, sometimes referred to as National Therapy Dog Appreciation Day, was launched in 2019 to acknowledge and appreciate the amazing work done by therapy dogs around the globe. It is celebrated by animal-assisted therapy organizations, hospitals, and countless patients whose quality of life has been improved by animal companionship.

There are many ways to get involved with the celebration. You can learn more about animal-assisted therapy and its benefits, donate to or volunteer at a local dog therapy organization, and spread the word about the holiday on social media with the hashtag #DogTherapyAppreciationDay. If you have personal experience with canine-assisted therapy, consider sharing it online to help raise awareness of dog therapy.

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