How Do You Train a Therapy Dog?


Quick Answer

Training a therapy dog involves finding a reputable organization that trains therapy dogs, undergoing an evaluation and then going through the appropriate training. Therapy dogs are either trained for animal-assisted therapy, in which companion animals are part of a patient's physical therapy, or for animal-assisted activities, in which animals are used to help patients relax and communicate.

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How Do You Train a Therapy Dog?
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Full Answer

Therapy dogs first undergo basic obedience training as well as relaxation and control training. They also do gentling exercises designed to desensitize them to stimuli. They are familiarized with hospital equipment and go through a variety of socialization exercises. The final stage of therapy dog training includes role-playing in a hospital facility and instruction on safe dog handling in health care environments.

Although therapy dogs are typically required to be at least 1 year old, older dogs tend to make better therapy dogs because they are familiar with basic obedience and are less excitable. The health of any therapy dog is evaluated, as is its handler's or owner's character and suitability; however, dogs who have disabilities are acceptable as therapy dogs. Therapy dogs must have a quiet, calm and friendly personality and be up to date on their vaccinations. Dogs of all sizes can be therapy dogs; small dogs may be better at offering cuddling and comfort, while larger dogs are usually more suitable for activity-based assistance.

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