Do you want to make your a dog a therapy dog? We have put up this super easy guide to help you with this.
Who are Therapy Dogs?
Therapy dogs are those dogs who are trained to provide emotional support, comfort, and affection to people who are disabled, in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, schools, etc. Therapy dogs are not to be confused with service or assistance dogs. These dogs come in all sizes as they are cute balls of fur.
The important feature of a therapy dog is its temperament. A therapy dog requirements are basic – it has to be friendly, patient, confident and can handle any situations with great ease. Importantly a therapy dog needs to love human contact and should respond positively to cuddles, hugs, and being petted.
The medical community has well documented the benefits of a certified therapy dog. According to research, therapy dogs can reduce anxiety, stress, loneliness, and provide emotional support in times of need. Thus, they are in high demand. However, not all dogs are therapy dogs, and for a dog to be a therapy dog, certain requirements need to be fulfilled.
How to make your dog a therapy dog?
The pets that are at home and are trained by the family and they, therefore, need no further or special therapy dog training, certification, registration or documentation.
However, it is essential that the dog must be well mannered and under the firm control of the handlers at all times. Therapy dog training can be still done formally from training schools. In these therapy training organizations, certain steps are followed, and they are as follows:
- A therapy dog must be a year old and should be very friendly. Any mix or simple breed dog can be trained to be a therapy dog. A therapy dog should be able to provide comfort and affection to people in nursing homes, hospitals, airports, schools, orphanages, foster homes, and many other such situations.
- To become a therapy dog, there needs to be a test conducted by a tester or observer in your area. The trial undertaken so will check the handling portions that will ascertain your dog’s basic manners, conduct, and your handling skills.
- After the handling portion of the test, a tester supervises your dog and you for three visits with the residents of medical facilities. Once you are successful in all the three trips you need to do some paperwork and then voila you become a therapy team.
A therapy dog, unlike other dogs, can be at many places where there is a need for them like hospitals, schools, libraries, airports, and so many such places.
However, for therapy dogs to enter a business establishment, special permissions are needed to be taken from the owners of the business. These places consider a therapy dog just like regular pets, and thus the need to take permission for their entry in the premises needs to be taken.
Training your dog to be a therapy dog
A well behaved and a well -mannered dog enjoy meeting people and can become a therapy dog and bring a difference in the lives of those who need their love and support.
How to make your puppy to be a therapy dog? There are a few crucial steps to keep in mind while taking your dog to a training school that will help you to make your puppy an emotional support dog and thus become a therapy dog.
• Socialization and trust are the most important characteristics that a therapy dog must have. To make your puppy, a therapy dog try to introduce them to new people as often as possible and try to make the period of interactions pleasant and fun-filled. The focus of puppy therapy should be on happy meetings with unfamiliar persons, well-mannered kids and people in uniforms, hats, and glasses.
• Care should be exercised that no negative experience is created for the puppy. As an unexpected or negative experience impact the puppy deeply and continue with him for a very long period. Having short and frequent positive experiences is ideal. Try to end the meeting while the puppy is having a good time and not extend the fun period as this could tire and overwhelm the puppy and it may stop liking the social meetings.
• Also, try to develop your puppy’s trust by making him do things that you and your pup like to do together. Also try to deviate a bit from the track and try to teach new positive habits and likings in your puppy like going for walks, playing in parks, going to pool, hiking in woods and playing certain games.
• If the puppy does not like a particular activity try to make it apprehensive for the puppy by changing it, improvising it, or reducing its time. It is crucial for a therapy team to have trust in each other. This will go in the long term to make you and your puppy a happy therapy team.
How to be a therapy dog trainer?
It is easy to become a therapy dog trainer; there are certain tips and steps that you need to follow to become a certified therapy dog trainer.
• The most important tip to become a therapy dog owner is that you should be able to work with dogs and handle them with great ease. A therapy dog can face many unpleasant situations, and it’s during these situations that you need to handle your dog with great ease and keep it calm.
• Inquire about the basic requirements that your dog and you as a handler need to meet to become a therapy team. As you join any team to become a certified therapy team, there is a training process that you need to undertake with your dog. There are several instructions and training material that is provided by them. You and the dog need to fulfill the conditions and handle the situations with calm and ease then only you become a certified therapy dog trainer.
• You and the dog need to visit airports, hospitals or schools during the training period. And it is during these situations the way you handle your dog it is decided that you will become a good trainer or not. There is a test conducted to ascertain your behavior with the dog during extreme situations. Your capacity as a trainer is judged and then only you are certified as a trainer.
• Before you are finally given the certificate to become a therapy team, it is important to work under supervised facilities for getting the training and finally become a therapy dog trainer.
For becoming a therapy dog trainer you actually may not have a dog but you have to possess the ability to work well with the dog and control the dog in all situations.
How to make your dog an emotional support dog?
A very basic obedience training can help your puppy or dog to become a therapy dog. To accomplish the obedience training you can either train the dog yourself or take the help of a trainer.
The main outlook of these training sessions is to build a strong bond between you and your dog that is full of compassion, respect, and trust. There should be strong levels of communication between your dog and you so that you understand each and every whims and whiff of your dog and your dog is able to understand your every command and action of eyes.
How to determine that your dog fits in the criteria of therapy dog breeds? There’s no such thing. Your dog regardless of his breed can still become a therapy dog.
The basic requirement for a therapy dog is that it needs to enjoy time with people not only with the owner or the family but also with people whom they have not previously met. Before you decide that your dog needs to be a therapy dog check the following requirements in your dog:
- Social interaction– How your dog behaves in a group of people is the dog confident or scared or simply does not like to be around the people.
- Handling situations– Is the dog by nature submissive or dominant? How does the dog behave in situations, does it get scared or aggressive or stays calm?
- Stable nature– The dog is stable and calm in behavior when exposed to a strange object will be an important indicator of the dog’s behavior.
- Follows the commands– The dog when given any command follows it or just ignores it?
- Sight sensitivity– if the dog can make eye contact it shows that your dog is confident and will make a good therapy dog. However, if the dog cannot make eye contact then it could be due to weak eyesight or some issues with the temperament of the dog.
- Touch sensitivity- How does the puppy or dog responds to sensitivity will determine the training it needs or its ability to be a therapy dog.
- Sound sensitivity– Is your dog sensitive to loud noise, clap your hands and see the response of your dog. This is also a rudimentary test for deafness.
Therapy dogs are greatly helping people to perform their daily activities. It’s a great thought to make your dog a therapy dog to do your part to help society. These pets help children with learning disabilities, patients in hospitals or patients with cases of depression and many such cases. It is a noble cause that helps the dog, the handler and the person who is taking the therapy.
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