Editor’s note: Every month, the team at Ravenwood Health posts about a mental-health topic. This month, Janice Katz, MS, Retired Psychologist, and Volunteer Board Member for Ravenwood, wrote a post about how your dog can become a therapy dog. Ravenwood Health

For every dog who ever dreamed of a career beyond couch cuddling, becoming a therapy dog is the answer! Therapy dogs, and an occasional horse or bird, have helped hundreds of people in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and libraries brighten up their moods. And the dogs love going to “work” as soon as their special Therapy Dog collars and vests are buckled!

Therapy Dogs have been shown, in actual research, to lower blood pressure and improve mental health and general well-being. Dogs often bring smiles to people who are suffering from depression, loneliness, addictions, physical handicaps, and other emotional problems. Children, especially, love visits from a friendly dog and will often talk to the dog before they might talk to an adult. Some children who may have difficulty learning to read enjoy reading to dogs, as the dogs are non-judgmental and like stories!

Becoming a therapy dog is relatively easy once your pet is trained to calmly let a friendly stranger pet them, walk on a loose leash, walk through a crowd on leash, sit and stay when commanded, walk around wheelchairs and people on crutches, and be able to ignore food on the ground…the most difficult of all! Several organizations, such as Therapy Dogs International, Pet Partners, and Bright and Beautiful offer certifications upon initially passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test and each organization’s requirements. Dogs DO NOT have to be purebreds to become certified. Basically, any dog who has basic obedience training, loves people and lives to be petted is the main requirement!

Two of my standard poodles couldn’t wait to go to work! Maybe your dog would like to do the same!

Janice is currently reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.