Therapy Dog Training

This article is dedicated to therapy dog training, which is unique compared to other types of training since these dogs serve a very specific purpose. Because of the work therapy dogs provide, they must go through additional training that goes beyond conventional obedience commands.


The great thing is that these dogs are not of a particular breed nor are they pedigreed. In fact, many therapy dogs are simple mutts with big hearts. Depending on the situation, some therapy dogs come from organizations whereby other dogs are merely family pets that have undergone this special training.


Understanding a Therapy Dog


Before we get into therapy dog training requirements, we wanted to offer information regarding the services a dog of this type provides. Unlike law enforcement dogs trained to sniff out drugs and bombs, actual service dogs that are the eyes and ears of people with disabilities, search and rescue dogs trained to find missing people, or show dogs that learn how to walk, run, and stand according to AKC standards, therapy dogs go through training so they can provide people with love, affection, and comfort.


Environments in which therapy dogs work vary but most go into nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement homes, hospitals, public schools, and even detention centers in some cases. In addition, these specially trained dogs often work disaster areas to help calm people facing extreme stress or trauma.


As mentioned, therapy dogs are not of a particular breed, age, or gender. Instead, the number one qualification would be good disposition and temperament. A dog such as this has a remarkable personality, one that is gentle, calm, friendly, patient, and able to handle a variety of difficult situations and environments,.


Therapy Dog Training Work


There are many reasons for training a therapy dog but because these dogs meet new people and are put into challenging situations, they are required to complete very specific therapy dog training and then become certified before they can perform duties.


As a part of working, therapy dogs are often picked up, handled, petted, and bumped into. While many dogs of this kind work with adults, some are trained to be around children, making therapy dog training even more critical. While not mandatory, some pet owners also teach their therapy dog to perform tricks as a means of entertaining people and lightening the mood.


Training Requirements


For starters, experts suggest training start while still puppy age. With this, it would be easier for the dog to absorb the information but also as a puppy, socialization around people, especially the elderly and children would make training more successful. Some of the other specific things that would need to be focused on as a part of therapy dog training include:


  • Due to the nature of work performed, you have to establish yourself as “boss”, whether you do training at home or work with a professional


  • Learning the dog’s behavior patterns would make it possible to establish a training plan specific to that dog


  • It would also be imperative to set boundaries and limits so the dog would quickly identify the rules of what he could and could not do


  • Praise is always a huge part of therapy dog training. With a dog such as this, the goal would be to create a gentle and loving dog so any type of harsh or overly demanding training would prove detrimental to the process.


  • Both you and the dog would work hard during training. When teaching a dog tricks and even some obedience commands, the environment and training technique would be somewhat more relaxed but because therapy dogs have very important and specific responsibilities, training tends to be a little more intense, although still enjoyable.


Therapy Certification


Finally, once your dog has completed therapy dog training, before he could actually go to work in any of the situations mentioned, he must be certified. For liability and safety reasons, most places would not allow a therapy dog into these environments unless certification could be presented.


This test has to be conducted by a certified evaluator, which could be found by conducting a search through,,, or other search engines for your local area or the area in which you prefer you and the dog work.


To go through the certification process once therapy dog training is done, the following requirements would need to be met.


  • Dog must be at least one year old
  • Dog would need to be healthy and have a current health certificate from the veterinarian
  • You would need to have the ability to handle the dog constructively in any situation
  • You would need to be a minimum of 18 years of age or if younger, accompanied by an adult during any working situation
  • You and your dog could only be certified through one therapy dog certification organization at a time
  • Dogs cannot be deaf
  • If you had more than one dog to be certified, they must all be tested for certification at the same time
  • Although cost varies from one organization to another, on average the cost of certification after dog therapy training would be $10 to $15


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