Therapy dogs work to provide emotional benefit to all types of people out there, including America’s returning war heroes. These special dogs can be registered through Therapy Dogs International to volunteer their services, and receive special training to work in the homes and lives of those in need.
Owning a therapy dog is a great opportunity, and a cool thing to do, but is your dog right for the job? It takes more than just a sweet temperament. It also requires a strict training regimen and a devoted owner and handler.
Therapy Dogs Work In Tandem…With YOU!
Therapy dogs work wonders, but they don’t work alone. Every therapy dog has a handler, most typically the owner or another family member, who joins the dog on visits, arranges outings to community centers and other facilities, and guides the dog along. It’s important to look inward, and ask yourself if you are prepared to take on the same responsibilities as the dog in therapy.
Therapy dogs go to facilities and often see people at their lowest point in life, helping them recover. While that’s noble, and the dogs excel, that job isn’t for every human handler. You need to determine whether that’s a commitment you’d like to make, as the dog will be required to devote a considerable amount of time to working in therapy with those in need.
So You’re In…Now What?
The most typical first step to achieving therapy dog status is the combination of several observation visits (so you understand what takes place at a therapy session), and volunteer training programs for the dogs. Generally speaking, there are far more therapy dogs out there than there are handlers for them. Get involved with training your dog at a highly structured class to understand the requirements and daily functions for you and your companion.
Once it’s clear that you and your dog have the right skills in mind, training classes begin. Often, these classes are fairly rigorous so as to ensure your dog (and you) has what it takes to be a therapy dog in any situation.
Training classes require a great deal of commitment, and they are highly structured to get results. It will become readily apparent during training whether or not your dog has what it takes to become a good therapy dog. Sometimes, things don’t work out, and the dog wouldn’t make a good fit. Don’t worry about that—it is likely for the better for you and your dog if you find out early that it just won’t work.
But, if your dog does have what it takes to provide therapy for those in need, get ready! Therapy dogs are in high demand, and loved by all who encounter them. Their comforting and talented affections make better the lives of those in need, and help people who need it the most.
UPDATE: Please check back soon for more information about Therapy Dogs International and their stance on service dogs as therapy dogs.
We have been contacted by several readers about how Therapy Dogs International does not allow service dogs to be certified as Therapy Dogs. Thank you all for letting us know. If you have any information about TDI that you would like to share with us please contact us as soon as possible.