International Therapy Dog Association 国際セラピードッグ協会ロゴ

About Therapy Dogs

What Therapy Dogs Do

Therapy Dogs

With their strong loyalty and deep affection toward humans, therapy dogs assist in the treatment of elderly people, disabled or sick people in improving their mental or physical functions. With the participation of therapy dogs in the treatments, patients have been known to recover their lost memories, and regain movement of their hands or feet. At ITDA, we work to bring out the individual ability and nature of each dog, and provide care that matches the need and condition of each patient.

Where Therapy Dogs Go To

Therapy dogs visit and provide services at nursing homes, hospitals (including cancer wards), mentally disabled people’s facilities, nurseries/kindergartens, schools (elementary, junior and senior high schools etc.), prisons (rehabilitation program for inmates), and areas affected by disasters all over Japan.

45 Training Steps to Become a Therapy Dog

At ITDA, we rescue stray dogs and dogs that had lost their owners and had no place to go after the 2011 earthquake/tsunami, and train them to become therapy dogs. After recovering health both mentally and physically, these dogs spend over 2 years of training to master a training curriculum consisting of more than 45 steps. Once they receive sufficient on the job training at various facilities, they will be certified as therapy dogs. There are dogs of various breed and age, even ones that have overcome physical disabilities, which are still active in the field as therapy dogs.

Some of the Training Steps

Eye Contact
Eye contact is when a person (handler and/or patient) and a dog look at each other. This is to coordinate each other’s feelings and wishes, and is important in establishing trust between the two. A dog will judge a person’s situation through this eye contact.
Heel Walk
This movement is the basis for all other training. The dog will maintain just enough distance from a person’s leg on the left side and walk at the same speed as the person. During the training, the speed or the direction may be changed, or the person may use a cane so that the dog will be able react immediately to any changes in the person’s movement and walk alongside the person. “Types of walking speed” Regular, fast walking, running, slow walk, cane walk, cross walk ( when there are obstacles), walking alongside a wheelchair etc.
Line Manners
This is when multiple dogs are trained together to walk at the same speed. The purpose of this training is for the dogs (especially for disowned dogs or dogs with little external contact growing up in closed environment) to regain their sociability.

Training With Rehabilitation Patients in Mind

Cane Walk
This is mainly to learn to walk at same speed alongside an elderly person. You walk slightly slower than normal to imitate the pace of a person walking with a cane and make the dog understand this pace. Some dogs may feel threatened by the cane from past experiences of being beaten by sticks when they were strays. You will have to work together with the dogs to help them overcome this fear. There is a variation of cane walk training where a dog is trained to walk at the same speed alongside a person with injuries from accidents or suffering from aftereffects of diseases. The dogs are not only trained to react to the changes in the pace but also to the person’s irregular movements.
Walking Manners With Wheelchair
This is to train the dog to walk at the same speed alongside a person on a wheelchair. With normal heel walk, the dog will be walking a little distance away on the left side of the person. But in case of a wheelchair, the dog will be walking just next to the wheelchair on the left side. The dog is trained to listen to the sound of the brakes on the wheelchair being unlocked, and when the signal is given, the dog will start walking alongside the wheelchair. At this time, you must be careful so that the wheel will not run over the dog’s foot.
Bed Manners
This is to train the dog for providing therapy to patients in private rooms at hospitals and nursing homes who cannot move or get up from bed. The dog is trained from how to enter the room, approach the bed, get off the bed until leaving the room.

Handler

Together with the therapy dogs which have been trained for the purpose of providing animal assisted therapy, handlers visit hospitals and nursing homes. They study the therapy dog training curriculum, work on improving their dog handling techniques and human nature. They also play an important role as bridge for communication between the patients and the therapy dogs.

Introducing Our Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs that laid the foundation

Chirori
Chirori Mix(♀)
Died March 13, 2006
Chirori, the first certified therapy dog in Japan
Chirori was a mixed female with disability in her hind leg, abandoned at a garbage dump together with 5 puppies she had just given birth to. After being rescued just before being put down, she completed the therapy dog training curriculum, which normally takes 2 1/2 years to complete, in just six months to become the first certified therapy dog in Japan. She achieved numerous miraculous results with the patients and laid the foundation for Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) in Japan. Later, as recognition for her achievements, she received over 30 citations and letters of appreciation from the government. In May 2007, a bronze statue was erected at Tskijigawa Ginza Park to honor Chirori. Books on Chirori (by Toru Oki) have been designated as Recommended Books for Children and books to be read for book reports. These books are read and loved by children all over Japan.
(Died on Marhc 16, 2006 from breast cancer at approximate age of 14.)
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    築地川銀座公園
  • 名犬チロリ名犬チロリ
  • チロリのまなざしチロリのまなざし
  • チロリ(絵本)チロリ(絵本)
  • がんばれ名犬チロリ(絵本)がんばれ名犬チロリ(絵本)
  • 名犬チロリ切手名犬チロリ切手
Timex (M, left)
Timex (M, left)Siberian Husky(♂) Mic (M, right)Siberian Husky(♂)siblings
Timex: died Feb.11, 2011
Mic: died Feb.15, 2011
Timex and Mic came to Japan from New York in 2002. Together with Chirori, they actively visited nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other facilities and were loved wherever they went.

Therapy dogs following in the steps of Chirori

Peace, the leader dog
Peace, the leader dog
Mix (M)
Rescued: Around March 2002.
Approximate age at the time was 1 1/2 years old.
Rescued at: At a park in the former Heiwadai Baseball Stadium in Fukuoka Prefecture.
The name Peace (Heiwa) was taken from the Heiwadai Baseball Stadium where he was
found. He and Chirori were very good friends, and after Chirori passed away, Peace
became the next leader. He has a kind and gentle nature, intelligent and patient. He
has been in a movie, and played the main role throughout without needing a standin.
Micky
Micky
Mix (M)
Rescued: July 2005.
About 6 months old at the time of rescue.
Rescued at: Animal Welfare Center in Chiba Prefecture, just before he was to be put
down.
This little shy boy has a cute figure, with his round tail and buttocks. He is also gentle
and kind like Peace. The two are like brothers and are always together on AAT visits.
Kotaro
Kotaro
Mix (M)
Rescued: July 2005.
Rescued at: Animal Welfare Center in Chiba Prefecture, just before he was to be put down.
Kotaro is very charming and active. He shows his happiness with his entire body. At
AAT sessions, he is very popular because of his cheerful and friendly character. He also
has a sensitive side to him. He will keep his eyes on the patient (elderly person) holding
the leash while walking alongside the patient.
Boogie
Boogie
Mix (M)
Rescued: October 2006.
Approximate age at the time was 2 – 3 years old.
Rescued at: Animal Welfare Center in Chiba Prefecture, just before he was to be put down.
Boogie was rescued from an Animal Welfare Center in Chiba Prefecture just before he
was to be put down. He is a bit shy with a gentle nature, his strong eye contact seems to
calm people down.
Patty (aka Aoyama Ai)
Patty
(aka Aoyama Ai)

Mix (F)
Rescued: July 2005.
Approximate age at the time was 6 months old.
Rescued at: Animal Welfare Center in Chiba Prefecture, just before she was to be put down.
After regaining her health, Patty recovered her trust in people and is now working as a
therapy dog. She is full of energy.
Momo
Momo
Labrador retriever (M)
Rescued: June 2006.
Approximate age at the time was 6 months old.
Rescued at: Kansai area
He was rescued in the Kansai area. He is loved by everyone for his cheerful nature. He
is popular with children as he will lie on his back, show them his tummy and try to
catch their attention.
Mika
Mika
Mix (F)
Rescued: June 2011.
Approximate age at the time 2 – 3 years old.
Rescued at: Ehime Animal Welfare Center. He was rescued just before he was to be put down.
When she was rescued, Mika seemed very stressed and terrified. Over time, she has
regained trust in humans and is now cheerful, sometimes cuddling up to you. Currently,
she participates in AAT sessions for wide range of people, from small children to the
elderly. Her name, Mika, is taken from mikan (tangerine), for which Ehime Prefecture
is famous for.

Abandoned dogs in Fukushima after the 2011 earthquake/tsunami

Hinomaru
Hinomaru Mix (F)
Rescued: December 2011.
Approximate age at the time was 2 – 3 years old.
Rescued at: Dog pound in Fukushima Prefecture.
She was rescued just before she was to be put down.
It seems her owner and the family were lost during the earthquake and tsunami. At the time, she didn’t seem afraid but without any expression and seemed to have no trust towards humans. But now, she will show you her underside herself and seems happy when you scratch her tummy. When we were visiting temporary housings in Fukushima, she seems to have felt a sense of fondness for the Fukushima dialect she heard there. Elderly people were quite happy when she would cuddle up to them with her face close to theirs. Hinomaru has completed the 45 step therapy dog training curriculum.
Kizuna
Kizuna Mix (F)
Rescued: December 2011. Approximate age at the time was 2 – 3 years old.
Rescued at: Dog pound in Fukushima Prefecture.
She was rescued just before she was to be put down.
She was ear marked to be put down because staff at the Fukushima dog pound thought nobody would take her in because of the dark colored hair. Today, everyone loves her, saying what a wonderful coat of hair she has. She is a bit shy but a very gentle girl. Kizuna has completed the 45 step therapy dog training curriculum.
fuku
Fuku (left, M)Sachi(right, F)siblings
Rescued: December 2011.
Approximate age at the time was 8 months old.
Rescued at: Dog pound in Fukushima Prefecture.
They were rescued just before they were to be put down.
Their mother escaped to the mountains after the earthquake and tsunami, and while wandering there gave birth to 4 puppies. The family spent 4 months in the mountains as feral before local authorities captured 2 (Fuku, Sachi) of the puppies. For the next 4 months, they were put in a small cage and kept at the dog pound. Their bones became deformed, and they suffered from malnutrition. They were ear marked to be put down as they were considered feral. Toru Oki was the first human to hold them in his arms when he rescued them from their fate. Fuku and Sachi have now regained their health, trained as therapy dogs, and are visiting the nursing homes.
Kinji
Kinji (left, M) Ginji (right, M) siblings
Rescued: December 2011.
Approximate age at the time was 6 months old.
Rescued at: Dog pound in Fukushima Prefecture.
They were rescued just before they were to be put down.
After the earthquake and tsunami, Kinji and Ginji were captured in the mountains by the local authorities. In the beginning, the two were suspicious toward humans. Now, they have started their visits to nursing homes.
kouki
Kouki Mix (M)(totally blind)
Rescued: August 2014.
Approximate age at the time was 8 – 10 years old.
Rescued at: Dog pound in Fukushima Prefecture.
He was rescued just before he was to be put down.
In spite of blindness, he was captured when he was wandering around Fukushima Prefecture. Because of his blindness, he was to be put down.
Currently, Toru Oki is personally training Kouki based on a therapy dog special training curriculum. Kouki is a cheerful and smart dog.