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Pomeranians as Therapy Animals

When people think about pet ownership, they may just consider a life long companion.  What a lot of people don’t realize, is that pets are also commonly used as therapy dogs for people with special needs.  Many people may have seen dogs used by an individual with sight disabilities, but many other uses exist for these specially trained animals.  Therapy dogs are often used in hospitals, nursing or retirement homes, schools, treatment facilities, jails, court rooms, and even workplaces.  Often, they are a solution to reducing stress in high anxiety or high stress situations or even detecting medical or mental health issues in their owners.

(images:servicedog/flickr)

Not just any dog is right for canine therapy.  Dogs must undergo strict breeding standards to ensure the breed is sound in its health, personality, temperament, traits, and overall quality.  They must also go through strict and rigorous training programs to ensure they are able to meet the individual tasks that will be set before them.  Often, the trainers or training programs are involved with helping individuals find the perfect dog for their specific therapy needs.

Pomeranians make great therapy dogs due to their portable size.  They can easily fly or be transported by car or other means.  They can be picked up and are comfortable in small places.  Pomeranians do not overwhelm people who may otherwise have a fear of dogs.  Because Pomeranians are generally healthy and require minimal care, they are a great choice for therapy work.  Additionally, their happy demeanor and eager to please nature make them prime choices.  Because they are so intelligent and loyal, they enjoy the training process and are quick to pick up new tricks and skills.  Other common choices of breeds are Labs, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Rottweilers, Shelties, and Collies.

(images:calvertlibrary/flickr)

Pomeranians ideally begin training at a very early age.  They must be adept at basic skills like handling a variety of human behaviors, being patient, sitting on command, accepting strangers, maneuvering through crowds, handling strange noises, basic obedience, and withstanding the variety of distractions that may exist in any one situation.  The earliest training programs were devised in the seventies and since that time, the demand has only grown and the technical skills have continued to produce dogs to best meet any variety of needs.

 One basic training program is the Canine Good Citizen test to learn basic training and skills.  Once it is determined where the dog will go or the environment the Pomeranian will serve, they are introduced to more specialized skills and training.  They typically continue learning and training throughout their lives to keep them in tip top shape.  Specialized training programs may involve training the dogs to handle soldiers suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Studies have shown that the introduction of therapy dogs has reduced some symptoms of this disorder and even reduced medication use amongst this population.

Typically, the dogs travel everywhere with their owners, ultimately learning everything about them and building a strong bond.  This helps the Pomeranian develop a “baseline” of their handler.  What this means is that for issues like anxiety or mental health disorders, the dog can sense when the owners is having issues or will soon suffer an onset of their individual condition.  The dog may then alert their owner that something is awry.  This may involve the dog pawing, misbehaving, barking or even nibbling the owner.  Since dogs are very intuitive, they can often sense stress and often have biological urges to assist their owner, even without training.  It’s no wonder they call him man’s best friend.


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