For Therapeutic Service Providers
Service Dogs for the Classroom, Ministry, or Therapy
In addition to providing assistance dogs directly for people with a disability, NEADS also trains service dogs for partnership with teachers, therapists and those who perform religious ministry. These canine assistants are matched with teachers or therapists that work with students who have mental or physical disabilities and ministers who seek to engage with their general community.
Many of these clients are special education teachers who seek a unique and effective way to connect with the children in their classroom. The presence of a dog can put many people at ease and allows them to start talking more freely than they would have otherwise. Children tend to form a special bond with animals and will share things with a dog or dog handler that they are afraid to tell authority figures. There have even been cases when a child has revealed a history of abuse to a therapy dog by putting a note in the dog’s backpack.
Service dogs for therapy are an effective therapeutic partner for physical and occupational therapists who are looking for a way to motivate children to use their body in certain ways. Throwing a ball exercises both the dog and the child, without either of them being aware of it! Children that are learning to walk can be encouraged to bring the dog a treat or walk a certain distance with the dog. Our dogs can be taught to roll a ball back and forth with a child who is sitting on the floor. Brushing the dog or attaching the dog’s cape or backpack can be a great way to enhance dexterity. Speech therapists find that having a dog that obeys commands and performs tasks when a child says something correctly can be a great incentive for children to work on their enunciation.
Service dogs for the ministry are placed with a minister, chaplain, or religious representative in a church or religious setting. The dog accompanies the minister in his or her duties, including visiting those in hospitals, nursing homes or private residences, conducting worship services, greeting parishioners, and attending activities in the community. The dogs have been specifically trained to help ease ministerial counseling and promote congregational harmony. The presence of a friendly, soft, engaging animal often puts people at ease. As one minister explained:
“I discovered that pastoral counseling took on a whole new depth with my service dog present. Some people stroke him as they talk seeming to gain comfort from his soft coat. Others talk to him or through him making it easier for them to express themselves."
Service dogs for the classroom, therapy or ministry are owned by the individual handler, not by a school, business or religious institution. The primary handler is responsible for the care and costs associated with the dog, as well as the upkeep of the dog’s training. Service dogs usually “work” during the day with their partner and then go home at night to be an “off duty” family pet.
There are so many things a service dog can do, and NEADS is happy to help teachers, therapists and ministers determine how to best utilize a service dog with their clients.