Monday, August 14, 2017

The Versatile Collie - Collies as Therapy Dogs

Today we are excited to share our fourth post in our new series, The Versatile Collie.  It's our hope that through these posts more people will come to appreciate the amazing and special collie breed.  Collies are such versatile dogs, they excel at many different activities, including Therapy dog work.  Our last guest blogger, Veronica Sanchez, shared her experience raising and training collies as service dogs.  But not only do collies excel as service dogs assisting people on an individual basis, they also make great Therapy dogs, where they can help larger groups of individuals. While we are still a relatively new Therapy dog team, I thought I would share our experiences as Ryder and I are completing our first year doing therapy dog visits.

A couple winters ago, my mother fell in the snow and broke both of her arms, necessitating a six week stay in a rehab/nursing facility.  To cheer her up, I brought our collie Ryder to visit and work his magic.  He was such a hit, we brought him back a few times, and before long the other patients and residents were calling him into their rooms to visit.  The staff also fell under his charms and when I would show up to visit my mother without him, they would ask me to go get him!  All of which started me thinking about getting Ryder certified as a Therapy dog.  And last summer, while we were at Sunnybank, I finally had him take the test, which he passed.  (You can find the requirements to pass the Therapy Dog test, Here)

I had to wait for all his paperwork to go through, but finally in September 2016, he was ready to start doing visits.  I contacted a few local nursing homes, and they all agreed to let him come visit.  But one Nursing home in particular was very enthusiastic, and even asked if they could put him on their weekly schedule!  They do a lot of activities for their residents, and were very happy to have a therapy dog stopping by the Nursing home.  It has been such a wonderful experience, and we can see how positively the residents have responded to Ryder’s visits.  Many of them light up when they see him coming down the hall, and one resident even had her family buy her a bag of dog cookies, so she has them to give to him when he visits.  And some of the staff look forward to his visits too, one particular lady keeps treats in her desk for him as well. (We save the treats for when we get home, as you don’t want your therapy dog to mistakenly grab something harmful, like medication or dangerous foods like chocolate, grapes or onions, while at visiting a Nursing home or hospital.)

Most of the residents in the Nursing homes grew up watching Lassie in movies and on TV.  And many of the residents had a collie of their own while growing up, so seeing Ryder reminds them of their childhoods.  Last December I planned a movie day, where I had Ryder and two other therapy dogs, visit with the residents and watch an old Lassie movie with them.  It was a big success, judging by the smiles on their faces.  The staff even took pictures of Ryder and the other dogs with the residents, and printed them so the residents could hang them in their rooms.

We recently learned that the AKC, in order to encourage pure bred dog owners to pursue pet assisted therapy work, have made Therapy Dog titles!  Ryder has already earned his THDN title and is now working on earning his THD title.

Therapy Dog Titles
·         AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN) Must have completed 10 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog (THD) Must have completed 50 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) Must have completed 100 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX) Must have completed 200 visits.
·         AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD) Must have completed 400 visits

Doing pet assisted therapy dog work has been a very rewarding experience, and it has so many benefits for the residents.  It can improve a patient’s social interaction and can improve their emotional health, as many are still sad after giving up their pets when they entered the facility.  Therapy dogs can also visit hospitals, hospice facilities, schools, libraries and sites of disasters.  This past Spring, Ryder was invited to Yale University.  The school was holding an event to help the students relax and unwind during their stressful finals, and since Ryder takes part in a research study at Yale on canine cognition, they knew he would be a great addition for all the students missing their own pets back at home.  To learn more about Therapy dog programs click on any of the following links:

Ryder posing for a "selfie" with two Yale students
Thanks for visiting!  You can read the other posts in this series by clicking on the links below:


  1. Hey Oreo here. I hear yo have a new blogger to put on the welcome wagon. Please email me their email at dcraftsalot(AT)yahoo(DOT)com so that I can contact them. Thanks

  2. Therapy dogs do so much good for the peeps. Mom wishes that she could take the time to have one of us be a therapy dog.

    Misty was watching the horse segment on 60 Minutes. She was mesmerized.

    Woos - Lightning and Misty

  3. Oh Ryder I am not surprised one bit that you would bring such joy into so many humans lives. I remember you as that handsome little boy who went with me just a little round pug girl to the valentine dance. My big cousin, Lily is a therapy dog at a college in Oklahoma and has won a award from the gov. of that state. She is a Great Pyrenees Dog. Lily's mom works at the college and gets to take her everyday to work, I would just love that. Anyway I am so proud of you. Yours Always Maggie Mae

  4. Therapy dogs are very special. We are glad to see that AKC is recognizing that
    Hazel & Mabel

  5. I'm glad that more nursing homes and hospitals are allowing therapy dog visits, it's such a long day when you're stuck in bed.

  6. congrats Ryder... I'm sure you will bring lots of joy to the people... like all collies...they are wonderful!

  7. Look at you at Yale in your tie, Ryder! You are such a handsome boy and SO SMART!

  8. Hi, I loved reading this post and would be thrilled if a pup had visited me in the hospital two years ago. Also I haven't heard of Dorothy Bodoin before-but will look her up and see if her books are ones I'd like.
    Noreen and Hunter

  9. Found the books on Amazon and going to see if our library has them-because they look like ones I'd love.

  10. Congrats Ryder. This story brings back all kinds of memories for Dog Dad. Essex and Deacon would come with him to visit his Pawther in the nursing home in Ohio. Some good memories that caused Dad to smile.

    We got behind a lot of things the last several weeks. Getting a new collie mobile had a lot to do with that.

    Dog Speed

    Sherman & Gemini

  11. Aren't dogs just the best? I love that you wrote about this topic, too. Hugs!

  12. hello collies its dennis the vizsla dog hay this is a grayt storry and just goze to show that their is no therapy kwite like dog therapy and that dogs ar the best medicine!!! ok bye