THERAPY DOGS: INTRODUCTION
A therapy dog is a dog that is trained to lend or provide comfort and affection to people or persons in a medical facility setting or to a certain individual who is in medical or emotional problems and require affectionate visitation to deal with their problem.
Therapy Dog vs Service Dog
Therapy dogs are quite different from service dogs
Service dogs are dogs used in providing specific services to a person with special needs and receive full public access per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service dogs are also emotional support animals, who requires a mental prescription from mental health care professionals but does not need any special training or certifications to do their jobs.
Unlike the therapy dog who is a dog that is trained to lend or provide comfort and affection to people or persons in a medical facility setting or to a certain individual who is in medical, emotional problems and requires affectionate visitation to deal with their problem.
Why Train a Therapy Dog?
The major reason why we train therapy dogs is that they bring many physical benefits to the human they visit.
What Does Therapy Dog Do?
Therapy dogs help in lowering the blood pressure and heart rate, they also help in reducing patient`s anxiety, and also in increasing the level of endorphins and oxytocin. But this is not a one-way street. Studies have shown than, therapy dogs also profit from their job too. The rate of endorphins and oxytocin present in an average family pet. Therapy dogs are known to go out to hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, schools, disaster words. Essentially, the therapy dogs are essentially needed in any avenue where a clientele exist, and they are usually very helpful to them.
Therapy dog Certifications
Therapy dogs usually need certification from, and registration from a reputable national organization. You can`t just take your dog to visit a relative in a hospital.
Getting a therapy dog certified is the final hurdle or step in a dedicated process towards becoming a therapy dog.
Certification of therapy includes lots of assessments including…
- Temperament assessment
- Training etc.
Therapy Dog Requirements
A lot of people think of their dog as a therapy dog just because their dog gives them unconditional love. Well, that your dog gives you unconditional love and attention doesn’t make them a good candidate or fit for the therapy job.
Also, because you feel you are an empathetic person shouldn’t make you feel you’re ideal for the work of a dog therapy trainer. You may not be an ideal half of a therapy dog training team.
So, what makes a dog a good therapy dog and how do puppies and people become part of a therapy dog team?
In becoming a therapy dog, the said dog must have reached adulthood. – this is very crucial as many organizations do not allow puppies less than one year of age to be part of their dog therapy team.
For some organizations, the dog must pass or have gone through the AKC(CGC) test for obedience. – CGC stands for Canine Good Citizen.
Although, other organizations require a therapy-specific test as a substitute for the CGC. Their elements are very important when a therapy dog is in public.
A dog that cannot obey the “Leave it” command isn’t fit for the dog therapy dog team. Also, a dog who cannot interact with kids in a friendly and welcoming manner will not succeed in becoming a therapy dog.
The age of a dog and breed does not matter in becoming a therapy dog.
Aside from the basic obedience training, the dog must be in possession of natural and social temperament. The dog must not be too young or bouncy and must want the job of being a therapy dog. He shouldn’t be forced against his will. – it is unfair to give a job to a dog that he doesn’t want.
Would your dog make a good therapy dog?
This is where a lot of dog owners get confused.
I will advise that, to know if your dog would be a good candidate for becoming a therapy dog, I will advise that you carry out certain observations without sentiments and with all sincerity.
Watch your dog very closely without any form of sentiments or dispassionate feelings to determine your dog’s true temperament.
You can ask yourself this question “does my dog love affections from people other than me?”
Also, ask if your dog usually enjoys the company of new people?
Also, ask if your dog enjoys interacting with new people in different conditions
Also, ask if your dog seeks attention from people and have a calm and enduring attitude towards people – your dog may the nicest dog in your living room, but elsewhere it may worst and most destructive dog.
In most cases, people in a therapy situation, people just want to have a dog that sits next to them and let themselves to be a pet.
Therapy dogs are naturally calm, friendly and very affectionate even to strangers.
Therapy dogs are also well-trained in basic obedience training and should be easily adaptable to certain sounds, places, smells, and various equipment.
Therapy dog’s organization usually requires that dogs in the process of becoming therapy dogs are to be kept in health, must be well-groomed, and must be regular at health and wellness checkups.
You can also read articles on dog therapy trainers or handlers.
You can also choose where you can work. If you know that your dog loves kids, you can go to visit the schools.
If your dog doesn’t love or get along with kids then you can visit the elderly instead.
TRAINING YOUR THERAPY DOG
In training your dog to be a therapy dog, either on your own or with the assistance of someone. You can look out for some formal organizations that list out some well educated and experienced trainers on their website to assist you on your goal to be training your dog to become on therapy dog.
If private training may seem two expensive, but you can work on the 10 CGC test which includes;
Test 1. Accepting a friendly stranger
Test 2. Sitting politely for petting
Test 3. Appearance and grooming
Test 4. Out for a walk (walking in the loose lead)
Test 5. Walking through a crowd
Test 6. Sit and down on command and staying in a place
Test 7. Coming when called
Test 8. Reacting to another dog
Test 9. Reacting to distractions
Test 10. Supervised separation
Then you on to YouTube to watch videos and clips. You can take up classes too – more directed and targeted classes.
Instill the behavior you want, into your dog.
Keep your criteria level for your dog reachable.
Be very clear in your communication with both verbal and non-verbal commands.
TIPS ON TRAINING A THERAPY DOG
Training a therapy dog isn’t easy and requires a lot of work or tasks.
But to go down to the basics here is a good place to begin.
- Socialize your dog to new places, things, objects, people, etc.
- Obtain the AKC CGC title for your dog. Train necessary behavior such as, leave it, watch me, loose-leash walking and not jumping on people.
- Enroll your dog in therapy dog classes. This will help to prepare your dog for lots of visits. There should also be an evaluation after each class.
- Once you have succeeded in your test, you can now go ahead in registering with a national dog therapy organization to begin making visits and also begin brightening lives.
It is also cool to stay ahead of your dog’s training and ensure that they become the very best therapy dog they can possibly become.