How to Train a Therapy Dog?
How to Train a Therapy Dog? (Expert Guide)
No one can deny the smiles given by a therapy dog who shows his unconditional love to anyone. Therapy dogs are trained to help people in need to relieve their stress and make them feel joyful.
If you are observing a sympathetic side of your dog, he may or may not be fit to be a therapy dog. In the US, the training of a therapy dog depends on a lot of factors, mainly his docile behavior and sympathetic nature.
In my opinion, any dog with a good temperament can be a therapy dog. However, your pooch needs specific training as well as therapy dog certification. Keep reading below for thorough information about how to train a therapy dog and what makes him special.
Therapy Dogs & Their Significance
The term ‘Therapy Dog’ is coined for a dog who is trained to provide emotional support to people in need. Therapy dogs are being widely employed in the healthcare and medical sectors to boost the mental health of people suffering from stress and anxiety.
Therapy dogs are trained in such a way that they stay focused on their goal of providing emotional assistance. Such dogs don’t hesitate to interact with strangers and stay calm in panicky and noisy situations.
In the domain of mental healthcare, various studies confirmed the positive association between therapy dogs & mental health. Therapy dogs know the worth of socialization and have a very docile and friendly demeanor with every person they meet.
Are Therapy Dogs & Service Dogs Same?
There is a common misconception among people that therapy and service dogs are the same. However, they are different and have gone through separate sets of training to acquire their titles.
Think of therapy dogs as fluffy physiatrists who visit different people suffering from emotional and mental issues. They act as emotional support animals and bring joy to the needy faces and get some warm cuddles in return.
On the contrary, service dogs are for people suffering from disabilities such as physical or vision disabilities. Service dogs stay with a single person throughout and they stay by his or her side wherever the person goes.
Therefore, unlike therapy dogs, service dogs are allowed anywhere from hospitals to airports and on the airlines. They have special access to all the public places and food courts to stay with the disabled person and help him or her whenever necessary.
How to Train a Dog to be a Therapy Dog?
In the modern world, mental health is a real issue not only addressed and helped by humans but also by therapy dogs. If you want to train your dog to become a therapy dog, following the training and certification guidelines is utmost necessary.
Start from Early Obedience & Agility Training
Everything your dog learns at an early age will be ultimately incorporated into his behavior. The same is true for starting basic obedience training when your dog is a one-year-old puppy. You can train your dog yourself or get help from a reputable dog trainer for that purpose.
Your dog must be able to maintain a positive attitude in all favorable and unfavorable situations. Try to strengthen him physically and mentally to teach him obedience and basic command training skills.
Additionally, a dog who is shy and has an introverted nature can face a lot of challenges in the journey of becoming a therapy dog. As a puppy, you need to keep him socialized with the outside world and strangers to reinforce docile and friendly behavior.
Agility training is as important as obedience for a therapy dog. Therapy dogs are not only employed in homes for needy persons but also in hospitals and disaster locations. A dog with good mental and physical strength is a perfect candidate to become a therapy dog.
Get Help from Professional Dog Trainers
Many dogs behave in a good way with their owners because they have already developed a positive association with them. However, therapy dog training is not just about meeting and interacting with owners. If you don’t provide enough training assistance, a dog trainer will.
To execute this plan, start searching about some of the highly reviewed dog trainers in your region. You can get your pooch started with training classes where he will learn his obedience training and keep socializing with other people and pets.
Pass the Canine Good Citizen Test
When started early, the above-mentioned steps can be fruitful in getting your dog through the canine good citizenship test. This test comprises thorough obedience training and its evaluation based on the requirements of a therapy dog.
In the Canine Good Citizen test, your dog will learn further about the commands, obedience, and agility training exercises. The test will judge the potential of a dog if he can carry on his journey to become a therapy dog and get certification.
Join Dog Therapy Certifying Organization
After the obedience testing through the canine good citizen test, your dog can proceed to join a dog therapy organization. Such organizations will continue the training of your dog to meet the requirements he needs to be a therapy dog.
Along with therapy training, the organization will allow your dog to start working or volunteering with a therapy dog program. This can be done by contacting a local facility where the spokesperson will admit your dog to a therapy dog group for further training.
At the end of the training, your dog will be allowed to go on visits under a dog handler's supervision. The handler will assess all the training your dog has done and judge his therapy dog's qualities in real time.
All of the training and visits are a part of the regular dog therapy training classes. The regular and monthly evaluations will make sure your dog is fit to be a therapy dog and he meets all the criteria for certification.
Get Certification & Start Working
If your dog fulfills all the criteria of a therapy dog, you’ll get a certificate to start working as a therapy dog owner. You can also volunteer your work with the organization and the local facilities to visit and help those who are in dire need of emotional support.
Some good places to start with are nursing homes, hospitals, and mental healthcare facilities. These places can give you and your pooch a good start in polishing the therapy dog skills of your dog and keep him trained in all aspects.
Your Role as a Therapy Dog Owner
Beginning the journey of a therapy dog trainer is as important for you as for your dog. It not only makes your dog master the art of giving joy but also your mental health will get a significant boost.
Now it is up to the therapy dog owner how well he stays consistent in therapy training and builds trust with other people. Therapy dog training is not just acquiring training and certification but also consistently making yourself and your dog master the therapy skills.
When you start visiting the healthcare services and needy people, it will have a positive impact on you. The owner of a therapy dog will start developing a sense of responsibility and emotions towards something he isn’t usually accustomed to.
Taking your dog to emergency and health communities will improve your social skills. Not only your dog but you will also get to meet the person as a dog owner. If you start your own certified therapy dog service, your clientage and social skills will improve over time.
Training your dog to become a therapy dog demands specific training as well as good obedience skills of your dog. If you get your pooch in this training at an early age, there is a high possibility that your dog will develop the skills a therapy dog has.
The basic training of a therapy dog starts with obeying his owner and staying calm in all situations. Additionally, gaining knowledge and training through a therapy dog program will allow your dog to get certified and start bringing smiles to the faces of others.