What is a therapy dog?
Therapy dogs are dogs who go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. From working with a child who is learning to read to visiting a senior in assisted living, therapy dogs and their owners work together as a team to improve the lives of other people.
Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are dogs who are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help a person who has a disability. An example of a service dog is a dog who guides an owner who is blind, or a dog who assists someone with a disability. Service dogs stay with their person and have special access privileges in public places such as on planes, restaurants, etc. Therapy dogs do not have the same special access as service dogs. It is unethical to attempt to pass off a therapy dog as a service dog for purposes such as flying on a plane or being admitted to a restaurant.
What kind of training does it take?
Your dog needs to have or learn excellent manners around all humans. In a strange environment, she must walk politely on a leash without pulling; sit, down, and come on cue; and leave food/medications alone. A few tricks are always good to put a smile on someone’s face.
What dog makes a good therapy dog?
Therapy dogs need to have a calm and gentle disposition. They must be good around other dogs, calm when strangers pet them all over, and not startled by things such as strange noises, smells, and medical equipment.
My experience in therapy dog training
I have trained four dogs from the shelter life to the good life of a spoiled therapy dog, including two of my personal dogs. In fact, training my childhood dog as a therapy dog was my introduction to dog training.