Silken Windhounds in Therapy Work

Dogs cheer up people. Patients in nursing homes and hospitals are often beset by depression. Visiting canines can brighten their outlook, give them something to look forward to, and often lead to improvement not only in their emotional well being, but in their physical health as well.

A calm, even temperament and a love of people are the two most important characteristics of a good therapy dog. Dogs must be able to approach people who may have disfiguring physical attributes, may smell of medicine or illness, and be in beds or wheelchairs. The dogs need to be confident, but gentle and patient. Since hospital smells, walkers, crutches and wheelchairs are not common in the life of many dogs, such apparatus may intimidate a dog. A good therapy dog must take such items in stride, ignore food left within reach, and welcome pets from strangers. Visiting dogs must be up-to-date on their shots, behave with verbal control, and be clean with neatly clipped nails that cannot scratch tender skin.

Silken Windhounds have demonstrated the temperament necessary to be excellent therapy dogs. They are small enough to not threaten patients who may be nervous around large breeds, can be picked up easily by their owner when necessary to get them in proper petting position, and are generally calm and confident around strangers.

Most areas have groups who volunteer their pets to visit in nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation facilities. The owner must always be with the dog during visits. A local private animal rescue organization or university vet school would be good places to make initial contact to locate a group in your area. Some institutions and groups require that the dog be certified as a pet therapy dog. There are several organizations that provide such certification. Pet Partners is one that recognizes Silken Windhounds as a breed.

To become certified as a therapy dog, the dog must pass the AKC’s basic CGC test, with some added criteria. All commands must be verbal. Touching the dog or using collar corrections is not allowed during the test. The test includes the basic obedience commands (sit, stay, down, come). The dog must also ignore a strange dog while the handler talks to the dog’s handler; must not become stressed when left with a stranger for 3 minutes out of the owner’s sight; must be able to ignore food left on the ground when walked within a few feet of it; must be able to recover easily and quickly, without panicking, from loud noises; and be able to walk calmly through a milling crowd using wheel chairs, crutches, etc. Basic obedience training is recommended to prepare the dog for this test.