Therapy Dog Certification
Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A certified therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted, cuddled, and handled, sometimes clumsily, by unfamiliar people and to enjoy that contact. The medical community has shown empirical evidence of the benefits of therapy dogs, which reinforces the need for them. In this article, we will discuss some of the training requirements and location restrictions for therapy dogs.
How Do I Get My Dog to be a Certified Therapy Dog?
Household pets that are trained by the family, require no specialized therapy dog training, therapy dog certification, registration, or documentation. Dogs must be well mannered and under the control of their handlers at all times. Some dogs get formal training from training schools, others are well trained at home by their handlers. At the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the process is as follows:
Step 1: A certified therapy dog must be a friendly dog. Any mix or breed can be trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, mental health institutions, airports, and many other settings. Dogs must be at least one year old to become a therapy dog.
Step 2: A tester/observer in your area test you and your dog. This test includes a handling portion that tests your dog’s basic good manners, demeanor, and handling skills.
Step 3: After the handling portion of the test, you and your dog are supervised by a tester/observer during three visits with residents of medical facilities. Upon successful completion of these visits and submission of your application paperwork, you and your dog may become a Therapy Team!
Would Your Dog Make a Good Therapy Dog?
Keehn advises watching your dog closely and dispassionately at first to determine its true temperament. Most of all, she says, ask yourself if your dog likes affection from people other than you.
“Does the dog really enjoy interacting with new people in different scenarios?” asks Keehn. “Does it seek out attention from people and have a calm demeanor? It could be the nicest dog in your living room, but not elsewhere. Most often in a therapy situation, people just want a dog that sits next to them and lets itself be pet.”
In short, therapy dog candidates are naturally calm, friendly, and affectionate to strangers. They are also well-trained in basic obedience, and easily adaptable to novel noises, places, smells, and equipment. Most therapy dog organizations also require that dogs be healthy and well-groomed, with regular health and wellness check-ups.
How to Make Your Dog a Therapy Dog: A Brief Guide
Therapy dogs bring comfort and joy to people in hospitals, nursing homes, and other community residences. Training your dog to serve as a therapy dog may be possible and would be a great way to give back and spread smiles.
The ideal therapy dog is well-trained, well-socialized, and truly loves people. A therapy dog must also be able to adjust well to new environments while staying attentive to its human handler. Any breed of dog—large and small—can take on this important role.
While some dogs may successfully complete therapy training at any age, the best time to start is early in a puppys life. Socialization is the first order of business within a pups first four months. The more a puppy enjoys socializing and adapting to changing stimuli, the better prepared it will be to perform as a therapy dog.
Therapy dogs are trained to offer people comfort and affection. They are adept at being gentle and reassuring to humans they have never met in unfamiliar settings, setting them apart from the average pet. While therapy dogs work wonders with people suffering from anxiety or depression, they are not considered service dogs, which are trained to assist people with specific physical challenges.