What is a Facility Dog?

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You’ve undoubtedly heard of therapy dogs, but you may not know that there are many different categories. Some dogs are trained to perform certain tasks completely on their own, while others are trained to work with a handler. Facility therapy dogs are trained to work with individuals or groups of people in a facility setting.

What exactly is a Facility Therapy Dog?

In the simplest of terms, a facility dog is a type of therapy dog that is trained to provide certain services. What sets a facility dog apart from other therapy dogs is the fact that they’re trained to work with a handler in a facility setting. For example, a facility dog might be used to assist a group of clients (often children and adults with disabilities as well as seniors) to manage daily tasks or to participate in education or entertainment programs.

Related: Top 10 Therapy Dog Breeds

Facility dogs usually work hand-in-hand with counselors, therapists, guidance counselors, psychologists, and rehabilitation therapists. Some of the facilities where this kind of therapy dog might work include assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, special education classes, medical rehabilitation programs, and psychiatric programs.

What Benefits do Facility Dogs Provide?

The most important service that facility dogs provide is motivating and inspiring clients. According to Therapy Dogs United, the key benefits of a facility dog are to, “encourage physical movement, verbal and nonverbal communication, and improved social behavior.”

Studies have shown that many clients with disabilities or special needs respond more positively and more enthusiastically when there is a dog involved. In a facility setting, the dog and the client work together to accomplish the goals set by the therapist. In addition to making therapy sessions more productive, having a facility dog present can also make them more comfortable and more positive.

Related: Top 10 Best Psychiatric Service Dog Breeds

Here are some of the additional benefits a facility dog can help to provide:

  • Improved mobility and response to physical stimuli (increased ability to overlook pain in order to engage in physical activities).
  • Social and emotional development through conversation and improved social interactions.
  • Support and friendship for those who have trouble making new friends or who have low self-esteem (the dog can be both a motivator and a reward).
  • Distraction from negative feelings, providing calm companionship to reduce stress and anxiety and to relieve loneliness.

Facility dogs undergo a lot of training before they are used in the field. In order to qualify as a facility dog, the dog must be trained in obedience and must have a calm and even temperament. Dogs receive special training to respond to specific cues and to work under the direction of the handler. Facility dogs must be able to adapt to interaction with people in many different situations, always remaining calm and polite no matter the circumstances.

Facility dogs play an important role, as do all therapy dogs. If you work in a facility that you think could benefit from a facility dog, you can apply to a program like Canine Companions for Independence or Therapy Dogs United to request one.