What is Therapy Dog Training?
Therapy dogs are those dogs that are used by certain people, or are taken into certain environments to provide therapy in the form of comfort or companionship to those people in need.
Healthcare professionals are realising and appreciating the benefits that a therapy dog can offer. Therapy dogs do not necessarily have a specific tasks or work to do, they simply provide comfort, and companionship to people who may benefit, such as those in wheelchairs, in assisted living facilities, the elderly, or hospice care for example.
So therapy dogs do not carry out specific tasks such as guiding their owner through obstacles, or respond to the telephone or doorbell rings, they are simply as companions and for comfort and feel good assistance.
Dogs Suitable For Therapy Dog Training:
Not all dogs are suitable candidates for therapy dog training, and some specialised training is needed. Some dogs are uncomfortable around strangers, children, wheelchairs, in new environments, people using crutches or canes, or with medical equipment near them for example.
Therapy dog training incorporates the socialisation in such environments, so they become relaxed around medical equipment, and are happy and calm to meet new people in new situations. It must also be remembered that all that come into contact with your dog may not pat your dog gently, some may be clumsy, and of course not all will quiet, some may shout too. It is very important that in these situations your dog remains calm and composed, as some people may be less mobile, less in control, and less able.
Teaching your dog to crawl up on to a lap, on to a chair or bed is another important part of therapy dog training. The reason for teaching your dog to do this is that some people can be bedridden or unable to bend or get to down to the dogs level. So in order for the dog to be in closer contact it is the role of the dog to be able to get up to the persons level. This can be quite alien for some dogs as many owners train their dogs not to get up on people or the furniture. So a bit of retraining will be necessary in this situation but it is achievable.
Best breed for Therapy Dog Training:
It must be remembered that not all dogs are suitable for such a role. These dogs need to be friendly, calm, patient, adaptable, and gentle. They need have the disposition and personality to be able to deal with unpredictable situations. They need to be calm and accepting of strangers too. There are some breeds that are considered to be more appropriate than others, for example Golden Retrievers are generally happy, calm and friendly dogs. However this is not set in stone, there will be mongrels and dogs from other breeds too that could be suitable, it is all down to the individual.
Alternative Animal Therapy:
It is not simply the role of dogs that can be used as therapy animals. Other types of therapy animals include guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, and ponies. Not everyone has the environment for a pony, but there are centre's where people can go for therapy with horses, and I know of someone who used to regularly take their pony for visits into the classrooms of the local school for children with disabilities, the children absolutely loved it; it was such a boost to their day. Whatever the animal, it is important that they are trained and socialised correctly in order to deal with the situations as discussed above.
So, if you are looking for a rewarding way to help improve the quality of life and make a real difference to others, and of course you have the all important pet who would be suitable and enjoy this comforting and therapeutic and very worthwhile activity then why not consider dog training therapy and help others who are in need.