Therapy dogs are not service animals but instead dogs who accompany their owners to settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Service dogs are specifically trained to perform specific tasks to help a person with a disability. For example, a service dog might be a blind owner’s “eyes” or assist a person with a physical disability. Therapy dogs bring comfort, affection, and happiness to people in confined situations such as hospitals and/or nursing homes. They are also brought into schools after a crisis, as demonstrated by a fleet of Golden Retrievers being brought to Sandy Hook Elementary after the devastating shooting which took place there.
Roles of a Therapy Dog
One of the key roles of a therapy dog is to bring comfort to people recovering from a crisis. They also assist those with learning disabilities, assist medical professionals in their practice, and serve as a calming element to those with mental disorders. Therapy dogs are especially known for comforting those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. In fact, there are several therapy dog programs which train and donate these exceptional animals to veterans.
These pups improve people’s physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Visits from therapy dogs can reduce anxiety without medication and have even generated positive responses and reminiscing from those with dementia. Cancer patients have had their blood pressure brought down to an acceptable level to receive chemotherapy thanks to visits with service dogs. Other healing affects associated with these amazing animals are decreases in stress, decreases in depression, decreased aggression, increased socialization, a greater sense of happiness and well-being, increased mental stimulation, and increased self-esteem.
Therapy Dog Training
Believe it or not, therapy dog training is fairly simple and easy to seek out. For those interested in seeking out this certification, the dog must be at least one year old, healthy, the handler must have good character, and service dogs cannot be registered as therapy dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends the best starting points being the AKC STAR Puppy Training Program followed up with the Canine Good Citizen Certification. Both of these programs teach basic obedience, socialization, good manners, and being adaptive in a wide array of situations.
The therapy dog test itself is fairly simple and consists of two phases and thirteen tasks called tests. Phase I covers the entry table or “dog reception”, check in and out of sight, walking around people, group sit/stay, group down/stay, recall on a 20-foot leash, and visiting with a patient. Phase II consists of testing reactions to unusual situations, leave it part 1 and 2, meeting another dog, entering through a facility door, and reaction to children.
How Puptown Fits In
If you live in or near The Woodlands, TX, you have the good fortune of being able to bring your dog to Puptown Houston to start their training. We start off by teaching future therapy dogs basic obedience with fundamental commands like sit, stay, come, and leave it. We also offer private classes, group classes, and “doggy day camp”. With your permission, our expert trainers expose your dog to a wide array of environments and other people and animals by taking them for walks, to dog-friendly spots, hiking, outings in the park, and interaction with other dogs to develop socialization.
We understand that this crucial first step means a future therapy dog will be well-prepared for and comfortable in nearly any situation thus focused on preforming its job and taking care of its human. Puptown’s professional dog trainers use programs that are in direct accordance with AKC obedience recommendations thus offer your pooch a great start if you want to get him or her certified as a therapy dog.
Good canine manners and obedience training are only part of having a future therapy dog. The third piece of the puzzle is socialization and while this is easiest to teach a puppy of young dog, it can be learned by dogs of any age. As you can see from the therapy dog tests, socialization is a huge part of the certification process and critical when introducing a dog to different individuals and environments.
Your dog will most likely be facing a multitude of people, places, and situations in their life and needs to be prepared for the outside world. Once more, entrust your pup to our training specialists to familiarize your dog with a variety of scenarios and distractions. This also helps our trainers to identify any fears or phobias and help your dog overcome these obstacles. So if you are interested in training your pooch to be a therapy dog, contact Puptown Houston today to begin your fulfilling journey.