United States | Kathy Ruxton

Chances are, if you’ve ever spent any time around dogs, you know firsthand the joy and happiness they can bring to your life. Their unconditional love, devoted companionship, and sweet faces make our days a little better and brighter. And it’s not just a feeling. Science backs up these emotions, too. Studies have found the benefits of dogs can range from feeling less lonely to reducing the risk of heart disease.

We see these benefits and many others every day at Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation Outpatient Clinic at White Oak. Peru, our golden retriever facility dog, spends her days helping patients meet their treatment goals. Peru has been specially trained to work one on one with our patients to help them build strength and recover from injuries and illness. This furry friend has proven to be an extremely effective rehabilitation tool for helping people regain their treasured independence.

Peru uses her training to engage with patients in a variety of ways, depending on their therapy goals, including:

  • Playing ring toss to help improve standing tolerance or balance.
  • Helping stroke patients string beads with their affected hands/limbs to develop fine motor strength.
  • Applying her gentle, calming demeanor to persuade patients to open up and discuss what it’s like living with a spinal cord injury.

Just like our human healthcare professionals, Peru has been through specialized, extensive training that enables her to deliver effective service and support. That is what makes her a “facility” dog. Facility dogs are not the same as therapy dogs or the typical dogs with which we live at home.

Learn more about the difference between facility dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs and how we can all benefit from the unconditional love and adorable dispositions of these amazing animals.

What Is a Facility Dog?

A facility dog is expertly trained and partnered with a facilitator to work alongside in a particular setting. At Rehab White Oak, Peru’s facilitator is Dr. Heather Tropiano, a rehabilitation psychologist at Adventist HealthCare. Peru and Dr. Tropiano were matched by professional trainers and underwent focused training to learn how to work together as a team. Peru knows more than 40 commands to help individuals toward specific treatment goals. She continues to learn new skills every day that help patients achieve a greater level of freedom from their limitations.

Healthcare settings aren’t the only location in which you’ll find a facility dog. Schools sometimes use a facility dog to help engage students in classes. These specially trained animals can also be found in courtrooms or visitation settings to help clients feel more comfortable and at ease during stressful situations.

Facility dogs like Peru must also receive ongoing teaching to ensure their skills are sharp to best benefit patients. They return for follow-up assessments at specialized training centers for recertification through a national standardized test. At Adventist HealthCare, we work with Canine Companions [link to https://canine.org/about/] to train and support Peru.

What Is a Service Dog?

A service dog is like a facility dog in that it is specially trained to alleviate the effects of a person’s disability. The key difference is that a facility dog works with a carefully matched facilitator to first receive commands and then apply them to assist any number of people with disabilities. A service dog has been trained to serve one individual with a disability.

What Is a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs are also commonly seen in schools and hospitals. These types of dogs do not receive extensive training like facility or service dogs do. Instead, they make use of basic commands and instructions to provide companionship and support to patients in the hospital. You might find a therapy dog curled on the lap of someone in a nursing home or lying next to a child in a hospital bed.

The Power of Dogs

Wherever you may come across dogs—at home, at school, in the hospital or even just at the park—it’s clear these special animals have an impact on our health and well-being.

Stay tuned to this blog to learn more about our facility dog, Peru, and her activities with helping patients at Rehab White Oak.

About Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation

Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation is a faith-based network of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and outpatient rehabilitation clinics that span Montgomery County, Maryland. Our team of premier providers and certified medical experts provide one-on-one and team-based care that helps people reclaim their lives following illness, injury, or chronic conditions. Adventist HealthCare Rehabilitation inpatient hospitals are fully accredited by The Joint Commission, with Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accredited specialty programs for amputations, brain injury, spinal cord injury, and stroke.