How To Train A Therapy Dog
How to to train a therapy dog is a rewarding and educational experience for both you and your canine friend. Therapy dogs must be of even temperament and accept all people, shapes, sizes and physical limitations, without startling or becoming scared or aggressive. Not every canine has what it takes to become a therapy dog so, if your dog doesn't pass the test, don't feel as though he's failed - he's just cut out for a different purpose in life.
- Teach your canine basic obedience commands early on. Canine training can start, technically, before the puppy's eyes are even opened. You can do this by offering milk on extended fingers and having the dog move slightly to find the fingers. But, real obedience lessons start with puppy classes after the dog has had all of his inoculations. Enroll in a local class which uses positive reinforcement for the quickest results and the happiest dog. At a minimum, your dog must know how to sit, stay down for three minutes with you out of the room, allow himself to be petted by a stranger with you by his side and come when called.
- Help your dog on his path to becoming a therapy dog by building his confidence on an agility course. There's nothing quite like running an agility course to keep your dog physically and mentally stimulated. You will see a big change in confidence as he learns to scale the A-frame or fly through the tunnels.
- Expose you canine friend to all kinds of different situations and people. Acclimating your dog to all different kinds of locations and people will help desensitize your dog to new surroundings. Being a strong alpha male to your dog will help him gain confidence in your leadership. And, dogs want you to be the leader - it's much easier to be a follower. If a dog, however, perceives that you're not the leader, he will try to take over as that's what happens in a dog pack. So, be strong and consistent. Ask friends if you may bring your dog to parties or other gatherings at their houses and be respectful if the answer is "No." Never take your dog anywhere that you're not 100% sure he is welcomed.
- Once your dog is sufficiently trained, take the Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) test. This test will put your dog in various situations, and evaluators will score your dog's reactions. In this test, your dog must sit on command, lie without getting up for three minutes while you're out of sight, allow you to meet another stranger with a dog and be around a wheelchair, along with other skills. You might need to practice for a while (consider it bonding time) to make your dog comfortable with the skills needed for the CGC. Look to your local obedience clubs for information on skills needed and when CGC testing will occur in your community.