Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs

How YOU can be of service with your dog.

Being of service with your dog is not having a service dog. Lots of people want to bring their dog to help comfort other people. This is a therapy dog, not a service dog. Service dogs require years of very specialized training to learn a task. Hearing Aid, Seeing Eye and other handicap helping dogs are great examples of this. This type of training is highly specialized and is often confused with therapy dog training.

Therapy dogs are dogs that go to comfort other people. It has been shown that just petting a dog has tremendous health benefits. So it is very common for people to bring dogs into hospitals, rest homes and schools. All this takes is some basic obedience and a little human training to bring the owners up to speed with the requirements of the medical and social needs of the places where you will be visiting.

Even dogs with no specialized training can be of tremendous benefit in medical and emotional treatment programs. For instance children are often willing to share trauma with a “dog” when they wouldn’t to a therapist. Kids have been known to read to a dog when they wouldn’t read for their teacher or their parents. The BARK Program, which stands for Beach Animals Reading with Kids is one of these.

If you would like your dog to become a therapy dog, start with a basic obedience class. Once your dog has learned basic manners and commands, then it is time to begin to refine those lessons around distractions and learn the specific skills required for certification. Aside from being comfortable in strange places and around distractions there are a few things special a therapy dog must do. First it needs to be able to perform its commands, but second it really needs to be a little more relaxed and independent.

b2ap3_thumbnail_therapy-dog.jpgTherapy dog tests include the basics like sit, down and stay. They need to be near people and not jump, though some need to be taught to actually jump on a bed or someone’s lap on command. A therapy dog needs to come when you call them and to have group manners like walk on a leash even through a crowd. In addition, there are some things you might not think of like meeting strange people and dogs without reacting, even when petted. Finally a tremendously important task that many dogs fail at is to be passed to strangers and have the owner walk away without the dog becoming upset.

There are many organizations that could use your help. You can also contact them to certify your dogs for therapy work. In Los Angeles The Delta Society now called Pet Partners works in conjunction with UCLA and St. Johns Hospital to evaluate and certify dog and owner teams.  TDI Therapy Dogs International and Therapy Dogs Incorporated are a couple others.

Of course we would be happy to help you with any training you might want to get your dog on the road to certification. Our basic training classes and our Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog Prep classes are available for people wanting to hone their dog’s training skills. Here are some other organizations that you could contact for more information on their programs.

BARK (Beach Animals Reading with Kids)
Delta Society Pet Partners Program
Love on a Leash
Therapy Dogs Incorporated (TD Inc.)
Therapy Dogs International (TDI)

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