Consider a Therapy Dog to Help Your Athletes

February 28, 2019

The Missouri Western State University athletic department recently added a six-month-old Australian Shepard therapy dog, named Myron, as a new member of the staff to help its student-athletes overcome their challenges.

Myron was added to the department recently after mental health expert and athletic trainer Tim Neal was on campus to speak to the

The idea to adopt a therapy dog came after Tim Neal, a prominent athletic trainer and sports medicine consultant with specialty in athlete mental health, came to campus to speak to Missouri Western student-athletes and staff members. Missouri Western Head Athletic Trainer Blaise Kriley then worked with a member of his staff, Athletic Trainer Rachel Petty, to receive Myron as a donation from a local dog breeder. Kriley believes Missouri Western is the first Division II program to have a sports therapy dog on site.

Myron is often around student-athletes undergoing physical therapy, who pet and play with the dog. “Knowing he’s here and makes it easier (for the athletes) to deal with their injury,” Petty said in an article on the St. Joseph (Mo.) News Press website.

And there are other benefits. An article on the College Planning & Managementwebsite, webcpm.com, states: “The simple act of petting a dog is shown to reduce blood pressure. Lower levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, and an increase in oxytocin are also associated with pet therapy and contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular health.”

Are you interested in finding a therapy dog for your athletic department?

Here are tips from an webcpm.com article on factors to consider when selecting a dog:

Therapy dogs must:

  • Be well tempered

  • Well socialized

  • Enjoy human touch

  • Comfortable in busy or stressful settings

  • Not shed excessively

  • Love to cheer others up!

There are training and temperament testing for therapy dogs that are important to review, and the article on the College & Planning Management website refers to the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test. “This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners,” the article says. Another good resource is www.companionanimals.org.

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