SPEAK! Oklahoma's Only Talk Radio Show for Dog Lovers

SPEAK!  Oklahoma's Only Talk Radio Show for Dog Lovers
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Common Questions About Therapy Dogs and Their Training

1. What exactly is a Therapy Dog team?

A Therapy dog is a pet that has an outstanding disposition, basic obedience training, and an owner interested in doing volunteer community service.

Qualified Therapy Dogs and their owners take a special kind of love and support to those who cannot have their pets with them during a difficult time. The loss of love can be one of the sad realities of life in a nursing home or other institutional setting. A visit from a dog is sometimes the bridge for love and communication.

2. How can I tell if my dog would make a good Therapy Dog?

A dog with a stable temperament that would be suitable for Therapy work would be relaxed and confident in new surroundings. They love all kinds of people and are not nervous or sensitive when being handled in unusual situations. They are not fearful or reactive to sudden noises or quick movement, and they should have never ever growled or snapped at anyone for ANY reason. NEVER means at the vet’s office, while being groomed, or during eating. Therapy Dogs are the exception to the rule of average canine temperament or behavior.

3. What kind of training does my dog need to be a Therapy Dog?

The dog must be able to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test under the observation of a Therapy Dog International Certified Evaluator. This test is a temperament test, and a gauge of basic obedience and control under everyday distracting circumstances. The average untrained dog can pass this special version of the CGC test after 10-12 weeks of formal training in group classes.

Dogs have to be able to pass the test on a flat buckle collar, or harness, without using the leash to position or guide the dog. The dog must be under voice or hand signal control. The dog must be able to hold a stay position through the distractions of being petted, having another dog walk up to them, and having a stranger walk close by.

4. What age dog makes the best Therapy Dog?

The dog must be 12 months old to be certified through Therapy Dog International. The training is easiest when started as a puppy, but old dogs can learn new tricks. We have had dogs start therapy work at 5 years of age and some breeds can continue to make visits until 9 or 10 years of age.

5. After my dog is certified can he go anywhere with me like guide dogs and other service dogs do?

NO. Therapy dogs are only allowed in areas where they have been permitted by the facility, and where they will be interacting with patients.

6. Can my friend or family member take my dog to facilities if I am the one that trained the dog.

No. The dog must be handled by the trainer(s). If you have a friend or family member that wants to participate, the dog can be trained by both of you and do very well as long as there is consistency in your commands and expectations.

7. What agency governs Therapy Dogs, and are there any special rules?

Therapy Dogs International is a volunteer group organized to provide qualified handlers and Therapy Dogs for visitation to institutions and facilities.

You and your TDI certified dogs will have liability insurance during visitation at no expense additional to the nominal yearly fee for membership.

Training a Therapy Dog could well be the most fulfilling thing you’ll ever do.

Therapy Dogs “DO IT WITH LOVE”

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