Therapy dogs make people feel better, bring smiles to the faces of ill or sad people and are the “four footed therapists” in many hospitals and assisted living homes. They do a lot of good but there just aren’t enough to go around. If you are thinking about training your dog to be a therapy dog, take a look at these guidelines and see if your pooch has “the right stuff.”
A laid back, gentle personality is integral to the core of a therapy dog. It can be playful but should be relaxed and very gentle. It should also be very friendly to strangers, other dogs and other animals in general. It should not have an aggressive personality at all. It should not be nervous and be able to walk through a crowd without being distracted, upset or frightened. A therapy dog may be exposed to a variety of situations that could be distracting or even scary and he or she should have a personality that is not nervous or aggressive. It should handle these situations with a calm, friendly ease.
Health is very important for a therapy dog. Dogs that are involved with therapy dog associations must pass regular, annual vet checkups and present a clean bill of health. He or she must be current on all shots, including rabies (mandatory by state laws). They must also have a negative heartworm test. The dog must appear healthy, meaning that his or her teeth must be in good condition and the coat must be well groomed, shiny and not have any bare patches.
A therapy dog has to have very good behavior. It must respond quickly to its handler’s commands and be very obedient. He or she must not have any bad habits, even licking. A therapy dog is to be petted, but they should not lick or mouth (a “doggie speak” behavior of putting their mouth gently on your hand, arm, etc. but not biting) people because this can be upsetting to some folks. The dog should be able to walk on a leash using a plain buckle collar without pulling or jerking its handler. When being petted, it should sit politely.
It is imperative that a therapy dog go through obedience training. They should be trained how to sit on command, stay and walk on a loose leash. He or she must be able to come when called and be easily controlled. An undisciplined dog is not therapy dog material. Since therapy dogs can begin training as early as one year old, you should get your dog into obedience training early so that you can instill good, positive behaviors and not get started with any bad habits. A well behaved, well trained dog is very desirable when it comes to therapy dogs.
The handler of a therapy dog is just as important as the dog itself. It is the handler who keeps the dog “in check,” making sure that he or she behaves correctly. The handler should be of good character, personable and good with people. They should not be nervous or edgy since these emotions often transfer to the dogs they handle. If you are thinking of becoming a therapy dog handler, check out some associations that deal with therapy assistant pets and read the resource material. If training is offered, it would probably be a good idea to take part in that as well. After all, you want to be the very best for your dog; he or she is depending on you.
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Originally posted 2016-08-24 08:22:00.