Potential new members going through training.
What special skills should I teach my dog to prepare as a therapy dog?
First, therapy dogs must master the basic obedience skills. This means that they should be able to respond to the commands to sit, lay down, heel, remain in a down/stay, for two minutes, and come. Therapy dogs may have to do a variety of tasks for which additional training is needed, if for no other reason than to make sure accidents don't happen. For example, therapy dogs learn to respond to the command "leave it" so that they don't eat food or medicine that might be dropped on the floor of facilities.
Therapy dogs must be people dogs. This is achieved by exposing the dogs to all kinds of people : the elderly, or frail, children and adults. Regular visits to various places such as parks and shopping centers will allow your dog to get used to all kinds of people. Encourage people to pet your dog and explain what you are going to do with him.
Exposure to special equipment:
A wheelchair or a walker can be a frightening thing to a dog that has never seen one. Introduce your dog to wheelchairs and walkers and make it a positive experience. Encourage him to put his paws up on the walker or wheelchair and reward him with a treat. Also, introduce him to crutches and help him learn not to be afraid if these fall, making a noise when they hit the ground.
Exposure to different surfaces:
A therapy dog will come in contact with a variety of surfaces and it is important for him to know how to interact with them without injuring himself or the person he is visiting. Good foot grooming is essential. You need to teach your dog how to get up and down from a bed gracefully. Teach him to get up in a chair or on a bed only if invited up.
Visiting dogs should be freshly bathed and groomed.
Nails should be kept short.
What makes a good therapy dog? | Special skills required | Other Skills | Other Therapy Pets | Liz and Flea | Is your cat a therapy cat?
Cleo and Caesar out socializing.
Dogs being introduced to wheelchairs and walkers.
Paws up! is a great command with many uses for a therapy dog. If your dog can lift his front feet up to the rail of a bed or the side of a wheel chair, people can reach him more easily to pet him. Always brace his back legs with your leg if he is on a slippery surface. "Go say hi," is a command that therapy dogs learn so that they know it's ok to approach a person in a bed, wheelchair or one using a walker.
Trick training is not required but is a lot of fun and often a great ice-breaker.
It is essential that before your pet visits a facility he must be freshly bathed, groomed, and free from pests. In order to be certified, your dog will need assurance from a veterinarian that he has been inoculated against rabies and distemper and that he has no contagious diseases or ailments that would make him unsuitable for therapy work.