As one of the oldest domesticated animal species, dogs have been one of the most loved and cherished companions to humans. This would come as no surprise since human-dog companionships have been dated back to over 15,000 years ago, with humans using dogs to accompany them on hunting trips or to protect them from predators.
Today, dogs are not only considered family pets, they’re also now trained to provide service and support to patients, families, and people requiring support during difficult times in the form of therapy dogs. In this article, we’ll discuss what therapy dogs are, how they differ from service dogs, and how you can successfully train your dog to become one.
One of the common misconceptions when it comes to therapy dogs is that they work similarly to service dogs – especially since both these types of service can be applicable to clinical settings. While this is true up to a point, service dogs and therapy dogs are very different from one another.
Service dogs are trained extensively to assist people with disabilities, such as assisting them in moving around safely, detecting markers that may point to disease triggers, and alerting patients of danger when they’re in public places. While service dogs do provide a certain level of comfort, they are not trained to solely provide this. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are trained to provide emotional support and comfort to patients, children, or family members in settings where these are needed – including hospitals, schools, clinics, and hospices.
By definition, service dogs are trained for specific tasks to help people with disabilities or difficulties, while therapy dogs are trained to provide emotional relief and support.
While almost all dogs are loving and affectionate, unfortunately, not all dogs can be therapy dogs. To be a therapy dog, a dog must meet various requirements when it comes to their disposition. A therapy dog needs to be friendly, confident, and have a stable temperament. Additionally, they must also have basic training and be well-socialised and comfortable around different people and situations.
Some of the dog breeds that are more commonly used as therapy dogs include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and Cavoodle dogs, but any breed can be a therapy dog if they meet the required standards.
Training a dog to be a therapy dog involves a series of steps, from temperament testing to certification. To give you a more detailed timeline, here’s what you need to do:
To determine whether a dog is fit for therapy work, the first step is to assess your dog’s temperament. Temperament testing involves examining a dog’s behaviour to see whether they are suitable for therapy work or service. These assessments include testing the dog’s responsiveness, confidence, and tolerance as well as how well-equipped they are to deal with a variety of stimuli, including humans, sounds, and other animals.
The process of teaching a dog the basic commands and behaviours that will allow them to behave well and interact with people is known as basic obedience training in dogs. Several commands are commonly covered in basic obedience training, including sit, stay, come, heel, leave it, and drop it. In certain cases, basic obedience training also teaches dogs how to behave properly by avoiding letting them jump up on people, bark excessively, or beg for food.
Socialisation in dogs refers to the process of exposing a dog to a variety of people, animals, and environments in a positive and controlled manner to help them develop positive associations and reduce fear and anxiety. All dogs, regardless of their breed or intended purpose, benefit from socialisation since it makes them more adaptable and self-assured in a variety of situations. Furthermore, it can help minimise behavioural problems like aggression and fear and boost the dog’s general quality of life.
Specialised training is the process of training a dog to work with people in therapeutic settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Specialised therapy dog training is necessary to ensure the safety of both the therapy dog and the people they are working with.
It teaches the dog how to behave and engage with individuals in these settings as well as how to handle various stimuli, such as medical equipment, assistive devices, loud noises, and sudden movements. Additionally, it supports the dog’s ability to do its job well and give individuals the emotional support they need.
A number of tests are administered to evaluate the dog’s health, temperament, training, and behaviour as part of a certification, which is typically offered by organisations that support therapy dogs, such as Therapy Dogs International (TDI) or Pet Partners.
A therapy dog can benefit people of all ages and backgrounds, and can help improve their physical and emotional well-being, as well as provide comfort and support during difficult times. If you’re planning on making your dog into a therapy dog, these are just some of the steps that you need to undergo to effectively train your pup into providing comfort and support. Follow this timeline and start helping patients and people overcome trauma, fear, and other situations that would entail people needing emotional support.