For more than twenty years now, researchers have known that petting a dog can lower blood pressure, increase happiness, and ease loneliness. Programs to bring dogs into nursing homes and children's hospitals have been wildly successful, thanks to certification programs that help prepare dog and handler to meet and greet patients. Animal-assisted therapy, as it's known, is a pug-perfect occupation. It calls for dogs that enjoy meeting people, want more than anything else to sit in a lap or get petted, take new experiences in stride, and — bonus points — can perform entertaining tricks. That's a pug in a nutshell.
Therapy Dog Requirements
Therapy dogs are a lot like Boy Scouts. They must be clean, neat, well mannered, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful — you get the picture. That means well groomed, no fleas or other parasites, no snatching food, and no potty accidents. In addition, dogs must become certified to do therapy work. You can't just walk into a nursing home with your pug and say, “I'm here to visit!” Both of you must be trained to certain standards. Your pug must pass a temperament test and become accustomed to wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and so on.
Nationwide therapy-dog certification organizations include the Delta Society, Therapy Dogs International, and Love on a Leash. You can find out how to contact these organizations by looking in Appendix A. Many trainers offer therapy-dog certification classes. If you can't find such a class in your area, though, the Delta Society's Pet Partners program offers a home study option.