What Happens on a Therapy Dog Visit

Looooong post ahead…  So, as promised, we’ll describe a little of what we do on therapy visits.  Now, each therapy team and facility is different, so different teams/places do different things.

First we get all ready to go.  That includes putting Riley’s TDI bandana on, me putting her badge around my neck, and getting the leash all hooked up.  It’s a good idea to bring along poop bags and water but Riley refuses to both poop or drink water when we’re away from home, so we usually leave those at home.  Strange dog.

Then we load up in the car and drive to the nursing home.  When we’re walking through the parking lot, I let Riley go to the end of her leash and sniff around some.  Then when we walk in the door, she’s in a strict heel position.  We meet up with the Activities Director and greet the people in the foyer area (including residents, staff, and visitors).  Sometimes we go in some of the offices in the front of the building to visit the workers.

Then we walk up and down the halls and visit with residents that are sitting in their wheelchairs in the halls.  I always ask if the people want to pet the dog, I never approach them with the dog unless I have their permission (or if I know for certain that they’ve readily petted Riley in the past).  Then if they say yes, we come directly in front of their wheelchair (or right up beside it…it just depends on how they’re positioned) and they can pet Riley.  We go into some of the rooms, always asking if they want a visit from the dog, and we always go into the two day rooms the nursing home has.

We usually get to showcase Riley’s skills and tricks a few times each visit.  I bring a few treats along for these “demonstrations.”  Everyone always likes to see her “perform,” and this is a good ice breaker for people who are unsure of whether or not they want to pet the dog.

We visit the nurse’s stations because therapy dogs are not just there to comfort the residents, they are also there to bring joy to the workers and visitors.  We usually stop and sit down for a while with different residents and visitors to talk to them.  We talk about all kinds of things, but mostly about dogs.

We always make sure to visit (or ask about) “Mrs. K” in her room because she always specially requests a visit from the dog.  We usually make the rounds through the nursing home at least twice to give the people a few chances to visit with Riley and to see any people that we may have somehow missed the first time.

We visit right after lunch, so there’s usually some food on the floor and this is when the “leave it” command comes into play.  Also, the staff are usually pushing around big meal carts picking up trays, so this is when training around big equipment/medical equipment comes into play.  Also, there are constantly wheelchairs being pushed by us, so your dog has to be familiar with wheelchairs (and also walkers) so they’re not scared of them and don’t freak out and bark at them.

Now, if you’re still with me………..long post, sorry…………then we say our goodbyes and head out the door (automatic doors, so your dog has to be used to those too).  When we get into the parking lot, I let Riley go to the end of her leash and I praise her and give her a treat or two so that she knows she’s done a good job.

And that’s what it’s like to go on a therapy dog visit to a nursing home!

18 thoughts on “What Happens on a Therapy Dog Visit

  1. Dat "leave it" command sucks! Howevers, dis was a very loooooooooong informative post but I did enjoy it. I am so not ever gonna be a therapy dog. Training is beneath me…bwhahahahaha. Anyways, I can just imagine how excited everybuddy gets when they see Riley come in. I bet her sure does lift there spirits, make 'em feel young again, and lowers their strees.Well Done Riley! Yous da girl!Puddles

  2. So awesome! Calhoun and I experienced residents having memories of their lost pets and they would break down in tears. Talk about heartbreaking. Calhoun has a funny face and everyone lights up to see it! The nursing home visits were always therapeutic for me too! Mamma Heartbeat

  3. When we're back east Stumpy does her share of nursing home visits. She's not certified, but we're visiting family and end up making the rounds. Nothing cheers those residents up like remembering and sharing stories about their dogs!I'm so glad you and Riley make time to bring joy to others in need.

  4. Riley may be a bit "exuberant" at home, but I'm proud of what a good therapy dog she is and proud of how much hard work her mommy has put into training her to be a therapy dog!Riley's Grandma

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