Pet therapy is a relatively new career opportunity in the animal care field, but it has grown in recent years as more and more people look to cure antisocial and other behavioral problems in their pets.
Although pet therapists typically specialize in companion animals like dogs and cats, and even horses, there are also therapists working in wildlife management and farm animals as well.
It is widely recognized that animals experience most if not all the same emotions that are common to people, and unfortunately they can develop many of the same behavioral problems as well.
Like humans, pets can become chronically anxious due to constant stress in their lives. And like humans, these feelings of anxiety can lead to psychological illness in the animal. It was once thought that there was little that could be done about such behavior in animals, other than resorting to sedatives and other medication. But now it’s known that therapy can also be effective in treating animal behavior as well.
Pet therapists are typically animal lovers, and tend to be sensitive and experienced in animal behavior. They have a talent for being able to empathize with how the pet is feeling at any given moment. They are also sensitive to the owner’s needs as well, and they take that information and determine what therapeutic course needs to be taken with the animal.
This can be challenging work, and difficult at times, but also very rewarding when a beloved pet sees improvement in its behavior. The pet therapist also has the benefit of being self employed, and working their own schedule and running their own therapy business, either part-time or full-time.
About the job
As mentioned earlier, pets experience the same range of emotions as people - happiness, sadness, stress, excitement, grief, anxiety and more. Unfortunately, they may express these emotions in a range of antisocial behaviors, such as chewing or clawing, damaging property, biting, not using the litter box, incessant barking, aggressiveness toward other animals, and more.
That’s where the pet therapist comes in. The therapist will decide on a course of action that’s meant to alleviate a particular behavior in the animal. Music is often used, sometimes “New Age” that’s meant to calm and relax the animal, much as it calms and relaxes people. Then the owner is given the music to play back at home, so that the animal can recapture the peaceful feelings it experienced in therapy.
The pet therapist needs to have a thorough understanding of animal anatomy, messages, and behavioral patterns. For this reason, many therapists specialize in cats, dogs, or horses, as these animals have their own unique traits and behaviors. The therapist should also be sensitive to the owner and the animal, and how they interact with one another, when determining the best course of therapy to take.
Some people also work as pet therapists on a volunteer basis at animal shelters or clinics. This can be a great way to work with animals that you love, and help them to become better pets. This also increases their chances of being adopted, as many animals in shelters suffer from behavioral problems. And pets that are adopted won’t need to be euthanized, and so another animal will be saved from that fate as well.
This is a career field that’s constantly evolving, as further research is performed and new treatments are devised. There are even therapists that treat farm animals and wildlife, especially animals that are traumatized by natural and man-made disasters such as the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Training and certification
Many people enter this career field after majoring in psychology in college. Others begin as veterinarians, zoologists, or vet technicans, after taking courses in animal behavior in college.
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