Training a Therapy Dog

All dogs are special to their owners, but a therapy dog is special to everyone. These working dogs provide comfort and serenity to strangers. They visit hospital patients, the elderly in retirement villages or nursing homes, and other members of the community who are unable to own and care for a pet of their own.

A therapy dog doesn’t need to learn a lot of fancy tricks. He just needs basic training like any family dog. The only difference is that because he comes into contact with many people, he needs to be very well-socialized and behaved.

Once the basic commands of sit, down, stay, come and heel are thoroughly mastered, he’ll need to learn to let strangers pet and love him.

Training your dog to be a therapy dog requires patience and a genuine desire to share your pet with others. Your dog must really like people, have a calm and predictable temperament, and be able to take loud noises, new sights, smells and surprises all in his stride. He has to enjoy being touched and fussed over for the time to nurturing naturally, while others are too highly strung and are more interested in what’s going on around them than the people they’re with. A therapy dog needs to be able to sit quietly while a patient with Alzheimer’s strokes his fur or a small child suddenly grabs him to give him a big hug.

To find out if your dog would make a good therapy dog, take him on a leash to hectic and noisy locations where people of various ages will be attracted to him – shopping centers or the post office, for example. When admirers pet your dog, observe his reactions. Check how will he listens to your commands of “Sit” and “Down” in a crowded environment.