Do you think your dog would make the perfect therapy dog? He’s loving, loyal, and always happy to be around people. There’s much more that goes into the makings of a therapy dog, though. Before you set out to get your dog ready to serve the public, consider the following requirements of a good therapy dog.
Above all else, therapy dogs must have excellent temperaments. Since they will be working closely with people, therapy dogs need to take new situations in stride and not get worked up in crowded or lively environments. They cannot be aggressive or fearful, and cannot have trust issues with people. Therapy dogs need to be calm, willing, and highly obedient, and they must enjoy receiving attention and working around people.
A therapy dog needs to have extensive and excellent training. He needs to know basic commands, and should follow them readily and consistently. A therapy dog also needs to be well-mannered; he can’t jump up on people or bark, and he needs to be gentle and polite in his interactions. Additionally, a therapy dog will need to put up with petting that is rougher than normal, since some therapy patients are handicapped or don’t have proper motor function. A lot of work goes into the training of a therapy dog.
For a dog to serve as a therapy dog, he must be up-to-date on his vaccinations to help keep both people and other pets safe. He also needs to be healthy, and should be able to withstand the physical and mental demands of a therapy session.
Organization Membership and Testing
For a dog to serve as a therapy dog, he must be certified by a therapy dog training organization. There are many of these organizations available, and they provide support, guidance, and insurance to approved therapy dogs and their owners.
To be certified, a dog needs to pass a test issued by the therapy dog training organization. The certification tests vary according to each organization, but the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Training & Testing guidelines can give you an idea of the basic requirements that many therapy dog certification tests will require. Your dog will be tested on skills that he will need to display in therapy situations, such as dealing calmly with crowds, obeying you despite distraction, and greeting strangers politely.
It’s great that you think that your dog might be a good therapy dog! Therapy dogs serve a very important purpose, and with training, your dog may be able to contribute to this worthwhile cause. Bed and Biscuit Austin offers training services, and we’re happy to help you and your dog start the process – feel free to call us with any questions!