Therapy Dogs – Is Yours a Good Candidate?

By: Tiffany Moon

  Therapy dogs can be very beneficial to those going through stressful times. Unlike service dogs, they are encouraged to be pet and interact with people. They can be seen in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and many other places. These lovable, cute animals help decrease blood levels, stress, and anxiety, as well as increase levels of endorphins and oxytocin – the “happy hormones”. Though, the question is – how can I train my dog to be a therapy dog? (AKC, 2015)

First off, therapy dog candidates should be naturally calm, affectionate, and of course, friendly to strangers. They also need to be healthy, obedience trained, and able to adapt to new noises,  places, smells, and equipment. There are three types of therapy dogs to determine what is best suitable for you and your dog:

Personal therapy dog: a certified dog that benefits to their owners who struggle with mental conditions.

Assisted therapy dog: a certified dog that joins their owner/handler at their workplace to help students, clients, customers and/or patients.

Visiting therapy dog: a certified dog that occasionally visits hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc. (Companion Paws, n.d)

Additional to discovering which type of therapy dog is best suitable, there is also a four-part process to make your dog certified. (According to Companion Paws Program):

#1 First Temperament Assessment: This is the first requirement to assess the suitability of your dog as a therapy dog for Companion Paws.

#2 CPC Therapy Dog Skills Training Online Course: This includes readings, skills training videos, and a short quiz.

#3 A Second Temperament Assessment with a Companion Paws Assessor.

#4 Final Evaluation: the second temperament assessment should be completed at least a week prior to the Final Evaluation. (Companion Paws, n.d)

Once you find the best suitable option for you and your dog and completed the CPC program, then Congratulations, your dog is now a certified therapy dog! Now you and your dog will be able to enjoy the rewarding feeling of making people feel better.

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