Could Your Dog be a Therapy Dog?

by Gayla on February 25, 2014

therapy dog

Therapy dogs have great responsibility. Their primary purpose is to provide comfort and love to those in retirement homes, hospices, hospitals and schools. While some breeds are better suited for this job, any size or breed of dog can play this role. If your dog has been through obedience training classes, loves people and enjoys making new human friends, they may just be the perfect candidate for the role of a therapy dog.

What Do Therapy Dogs Do?

Therapy dogs serve as companions for those who are lonely or going through a difficult time. Because of the nature of their job, a dog’s temperament is of the utmost importance. Not only must they be kind-hearted, but they must be confident, friendly, gentle and patient. It should go without saying that therapy dogs should love human contact and be comfortable in the company of strangers. Patience also comes into play as these dogs are sometimes handled in a clumsy manner by the humans they are offering companionship to.

A good therapy dog will be comfortable (size permitting) with the idea of spending time on a human’s lap and being petted by someone in need of affection. Some dogs will also perform tricks to entertain their audience and bring a smile to their face. The joy and affection that therapy dogs provide is priceless and can make a huge difference to the lives of those who are suffering. While therapy dogs are most commonly seen in retirement homes and children’s hospitals, they can also be found at disaster sites bringing comfort and love to those who have been through a terrible loss.

What Tests Are Needed to Become a Therapy Dog?

There are several organizations that offer therapy dog training and certification. Dogs must meet all of the requirements before they can start serving. This is to ensure that their temperament is suitable for the job and to ensure that they are in good physical condition. An unhealthy dog can pose a risk to ill patients, and dogs with questionable temperaments may not be able to handle close human contact.

Throughout the testing process, the dog will be placed in a variety of situations to assess their behavior and also to analyze how well they have been trained. Dogs may be placed in rooms with a large number of people or another handler may test how well the dog listens to and responds to commands from others. Recall commands will also be tested as well as the dog’s ability to handle difficult and unique situations.

Are There Any Other Requirements?

· Dogs must have had an annual check-up within the past year

· They must be up to date with their vaccinations.

· Dogs must have a negative fecal exam and negative heartworm test

· Dogs must be at least one year of age

Certification to become a therapy dog often involves a fee. This may range anywhere from $90 to $120. However, this is a small price to pay for the joy and hope that your therapy dog will bring to so many people in need.

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