Many pet owners (rightfully so) think that their pet is friendly, loves people, is great with kids....and think "Hey, my dog could be a Therapy Dog!" The reality of therapy dog activity is usually a bit different than one assumes. Here is a brief quiz to see if therapy work might be right for you and your dog:
1. Does your dog have obedience training? Dogs that take a therapy dog test are required to sit, down, stay, come when called, walk on a loose leash, walk OVER food and treats on the floor without eating them as well as perform other obedience skills. These skills are tested in the presence of other people and other dogs.
2. Is your dog comfortable with people & kids of all ages & races? Everything from a rowdy toddler to a senior in a baseball hat who speaks loudly and pets with a heavy hand?
3. Can your dog be composed around wheelchairs, wheezing people with shuffling gaits, walkers & crutches, and other medical devices?
4. Does your dog LOVE to interact with EVERYONE and can they deal with the stress involved in meeting large numbers of people during a visit?
Therapy Dogs should be what trainers refer to as "bombproof". Almost nothing should upset them. One thing to keep in mind is just because your dog can pass a therapy test doesn't mean that your dog will ENJOY doing therapy work.
It is up to you to be your dog's advocate. Do not subject your dog to therapy work unless they have the unique personality to do it well and thrive as a result.
Therapy Dog Certification is offered by Therapy Dogs International, Delta Society and other organizations. Local dog training centers offer the tests for a fee. Check with your local training center for information regarding test dates and requirements.
And....CONGRATULATIONS to all the handlers & dogs that passed the Therapy Dogs International Test on Saturday May 5th at Digging Dogs Training Center: Anne C., Sarah D., Elizabeth A., Amanda S,. Jeff M., & Kristen V. Good Job!!