Therapy dog training has become a key component to healing for mental health and other disorders within the last few decades. Therapy dogs provide incredible comfort and companionship to those in need through a genuine, special connection. Service dogs do everything from assisting those that suffer from PTSD to visiting schools where they help students develop reading skills. The special emotional bond they have with their handler helps deliver joy and happiness that is impossible to replicate elsewhere. There are many different organizations that certify animals for therapy work. If you are looking for high-quality therapy dog training there are a number of terrific organizations including Pet Partners and Therapy Dogs Inc.
Benefits of Therapy Dogs
Therapy animals help people in a number of emotional ways while also enhancing morale, alleviating anxiety and depression, providing companionship to those that are lonely, and otherwise brightening a day for people of all ages. Recently therapy dogs have worked with patients suffering from a number of troubling disorders including PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s. Dogs have helped rekindle memories, provided a subject of conversation, overcome learning disabilities, as well as provide comfort and support for those struggling to readapt to the “real world”. As the medical community continues to deliver exciting new studies related to service animals and their benefits to a wide spectrum of diseases and conditions; we can only begin to anticipate the number of other ways pets can help people in the distant future.
Guidelines for Therapy Dog Training
Do you have a furry friend that you believe would make a good companion? Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic those that certify therapy animals account for is the temperament. The best therapy dogs are patient, friendly, gentle, confident, and easy-going. If a dog does not enjoy human contact, particularly with strangers, it is unlikely to adjust well to therapy dog training. Outgoing animals are the best service animals because they are often cuddled, petted, and held by unfamiliar folks. All types of dogs are used as service animals. Regardless of the breed, the dog must go through training, as well as get tested and evaluated by a certified organization. The standards for therapy dogs are high, so unfortunately not every pet matches the stringent criteria. In order to receive consideration:
- The dog must be at least one year old and have a good disposition.
- General expectations include being well groomed and clean.
- The dog and handler must be willing to submit to training and testing.
- Produce a good health record or equivalent form to a certifying organization and signed by a licensed veterinarian.
- Pass the Canine Good Citizen Test through the American Kennel Club.
- Pass the Therapy Dog Test in order to receive full certification.
Once a dog is certified it still needs to get examined each year by a veterinarian and have the necessary paperwork submitted in order to renew a license. It is important that you stay up on renewals because if you, unfortunately, miss the deadline, the handler needs to begin the re-testing process all over again. Service animals are expected to get bathed, brushed, have clean teeth, and get their nails clipped before each visit intended for therapy.
Suggestions for Service Animals
Therapy dogs interact with numerous strangers on a daily basis depending on the schedule of the handler. They visit hospitals, clinics, schools, and private homes. Handlers have offered a fair amount of advice to those just looking into therapy training for dogs: Handlers have noticed that just because a dog makes a friendly family pet does not mean it will work well in a therapy setting. It appears dogs either thrive or really dislike therapy work. Therapy work for dogs is time-consuming and demanding. It is almost like a full-time job if you want it to so make sure you and your furry friend can make the commitment. Patience is a virtue. Therapy training takes time for dogs. Before you attempt to get certified you may want to enroll in an obedience class first to see how the dog handles sophisticated instruction. Therapy dogs interact with people of all ages so it is important to introduce them to kids, teens, adults, and the elderly. Handlers need to demonstrate a good “read” on their dogs. It enables them to intervene when temperament changes and high levels of stress are observed. Dogs get stressed and exhausted just like humans. It is important to realize service animals need breaks and time away so they can relax and unwind.
Getting Started with Dog Training for Therapy
Therapy dog training is a rewarding experience for you and the animal. It affords you both with the opportunity to share the love and directly influence your community. All dogs are considered eligible for consideration so long as they are at least one year old and do not demonstrate aggression issues. Therapy dogs need to get prepared to handle all kinds of distractions, responding with calmness and grace. Dogs that have good composure naturally are the best candidates. Of course some of this can also be taught in obedience training, but having a dog with that kind of personality naturally helps a ton. New dogs trained for therapy have obedience training as a benchmark for how equipped they are to function as service animals. It is much more than just teaching new tricks. Specialized skills are necessary to help deal with any nervousness or discomfort a dog may express when in therapeutic settings. Training helps deal with common annoyances that dogs experience and therefore make them bark. These include simple yet overlooked things like wheelchairs. Dogs have a habit of getting edgy whenever something is rolled on wheels like a car. In clinical settings, wheelchairs are everywhere, so these kinds of techniques and others are addressed.
Therapy dogs are different from service animals in that they are not specifically trained to deal with the deaf and blind, for example. However, therapy dogs can progress into service dogs, or simply remain therapy animals and help provide a lot of support in that means. A therapy animal program is often required depending on the state you live in. You can get more detailed about obedience classes and training, as well as how to get certified, by contacting an organization such as Pet Partners or Therapy Dogs Inc.