Can My Dog Be a Therapy Dog?
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
Have you experienced the overwhelming joy a dog brings into your life? If I do say so myself, we dogs add happiness to life that nothing else really matches. You can take this wonderful quality dogs possess to a whole new level by using your dog to bring joy to others. Therapy dogs brighten the days of the sick, the injured, the elderly, and the home-bound. If you are interested in contributing to the quality of life of others by making your dog a therapy dog, here’s what you need to know.
Dog must be a year of age or older
Your dog should be in excellent physical health and should be up to date on all his vaccinations. He should have a check-up with the vet and a stool exam annually. He should have an annual heartworm test or be on a heartworm preventative. He should also be a healthy weight for his breed.
A therapy dog is comfortable being handled all over by people of all ages and by several people at a time. He should be comfortable with strangers making physical contact both with him and his handler. He should never act shy, aggressive, or afraid.
Your dog should be comfortable away from his handler. A stranger should be able to hold your dog’s leash as you leave a room and he should behave without stress, nervousness, or agitation
He should be used to loud noises and commotion.
Your dog should be able to walk through a crowd without acting out or being overwhelmed. He should be comfortable in close proximity to wheelchairs.
Your pooch should respond without hesitation to basic obedience commands including sit, down and stay. He should be calm and easily controlled, as well as comfortable and obedient on a loose leash without a pinch collar.
A therapy dog knows better than to jump up on people, nip, behave raucously, get too excited, or jump on furniture without being invited.
Your dog must display absolutely no aggression whatsoever. No food aggression, protective aggression, passive aggression—no aggression at all.
Your dog should be neat, clean, and well-groomed. His nails should be clipped short and filed smooth. He should be free of fleas, ticks, mites, and other external parasites.
Therapy dogs are comfortable around other dogs. They do not behave aggressively, or express excessive excitement.