Activities For Helpful Dogs

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Introduction

Some dogs are just naturally helpful and seem to always be getting in your way. Use their natural desire to help to your benefit and channel that helpfulness into something useful. There are certain activities that you can do with your dog that allows them to feel like they are valuable. While some activities involve helping others, there are some easy and cheap activities that you can do with your dog that will benefit your home and strengthen the bond between you. Teaching your dog to fetch items for you or pick up their toys are great ways for them to perform a job and lend you a hand with the housework.

Therapy

Popular
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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
1 hr
Items needed
Official Visit Log
Treats
Leash
Collar
Activity description

It takes a special dog to become a therapy dog. Dogs that do not have an obedient or calm nature will not excel in therapy work. A therapy dog is trained to provide comfort and affection to people in need of support when dealing with stressful situations. Generally, therapy dogs will visit hospitals, nursing homes or schools, but they have also been known to enter jails and offer emotional support to those incarcerated. Dogs that have obedience training can become certified as a therapy dog through the American Kennel Club’s Therapy Dog Program. Dogs can earn certification levels based on how many therapy visits they have made. If you are interested in therapy work with your dog, visit a local dog club that offers a therapy dog program and discuss your options with them.

Step
1
Obedience training
Obedience training for a potential therapy dog can be done in your own home if you are an experienced dog trainer or handler. You can also enroll your dog into a formal obedience training program to ensure you both understand the commands and will be able to quickly follow the commands given. Dogs must be able to handle emotional situations of all kinds and be able to follow commands given by their owner under all circumstances.
Step
2
Start visiting
Once you feel your dog is ready to start making therapy visits, start slowly. Pick a place that is lower stress and ease your dog into the situation. Do not begin by going into a situation that would be high stress and let them approach the people on their own. Never force your dog to approach a person that they are unsure of. Keep visits short to start and then increase time as your dog becomes more comfortable with the situation. Remember to bring your official visit log with you every time you go on a therapy visit.
Step
3
Earn titles
Be sure your dog is either registered or listed with the AKC so they can earn AKC Therapy Dog titles. There are specific criteria that each visit must follow to be considered official and your visit log must be signed during each visit. While the main goal of doing therapy work is to provide love and support to those in need, it is nice for your dog to earn recognition as a therapy dog along the way. Dogs can quickly earn their first title, the AKC Therapy Novice or THDN title just after completing 10 visits. The top honor for a therapy dog is to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished or THDD. To earn this title a dog must have completed 400 visits.
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Emotional Support

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
45 min
Items needed
Treats
Leash
Collar
Activity description

An emotional support dog is not usually formally trained. They will be obedience trained and may have been taught to press a call button such as Life Lock or some other program that calls for help. An emotional support dog is chosen for gentle demeanor and ability to calm those around them. People with psychiatric disabilities will use emotional support dogs to bring normalcy to their daily lives. Unlike therapy dogs, these dogs will primarily work in the home and provide support to one or two people. Emotional support dogs are the same as service dogs and cannot perform the same tasks. Since they are mainly companion animals, an emotional support dog does not have any formal certifications. 

Step
1
Obtain proper documents
Although they do not need to be certified as an emotional support dog, you still must acquire proper documentation from a mental health professional to be able to travel with your emotional support dog. Many places of business only allow service dogs to enter their premises. Be aware of the policies of each business you plan to visit with your emotional support dog.
Step
2
Obedience training
As with any service or support dog, obedience training is essential so they are able to enter any establishment and not be a nuisance. Basic obedience commands such as sit, heel and down should be the first commands taught. If you are unsure of how to train your dog, enroll them in a reputable obedience school. By enrolling in an obedience school you will be more certain that your dog can handle situations outside of the home.
Step
3
Learn policies
Remember that not all places of business allow emotional support dogs and there is a constant debate as to the validity of an emotional support dog. When you want to travel with your dog or even visit your local supermarket be sure to know what the policies are regarding support dogs. When outside the home with your dog keep a copy of your validation letter from a certified mental health professional. This proves the validity of your dog as an emotional support dog.
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Teach to Clean Up

Popular
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Any Day
Cheap
Normal
1 hr
Items needed
Toy Box
Treats
Toys
Activity description
You may decide to train your dog to help you out around the house. This will ease some of the stress of having to pick up after your dog and give them an actual purpose. You can also amaze your guests when you ask your dog to go pick up their toys. It takes consistency and patience to teach them to pick up their toys and it is a free activity except for the price of treats to reward them. Dogs of all shapes and sizes can participate in this activity, just be sure their toy box is size appropriate. Do not expect a small dog to be able to drop their toys in an extra tall box or basket.

Step
1
Teach fetch
The first thing you need to teach your dog is how to fetch. Start with tossing their favorite toy and having them bring it back to you. Once they understand how to fetch, have them bring it back and drop into a shallow box or basket. Be sure to offer them praise and a treat when they correctly complete the task. Next you will start having them pick up a toy that has not been tossed and bring it to you. Follow that with a treat!
Step
2
Use a catch phrase
After your dog has learned to fetch their toy start associating a word or phrase with each toy, such as the “blue elephant” or “red rope”. You will also want to give them one command that means pick up your toys. This can be as simple as “bring me your red rope” or “time to clean up” when you want them to pick up all their toys.
Step
3
Praise and reward
Every dog blossoms under praise and when learning how to clean up their toys this is especially important so they know they have done something right. Since they are cleaning up their toys you do not want to offer them a new toy as a reward. A favorite treat is the best reward for them when they complete a task. Do not scold when training, instead use repetition to drive home the training.
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More Fun Ideas...

Fetch Things

It is easy to teach your dog to fetch your slippers, the newspaper or even a snack! Decide on the first thing you want them to be able to fetch for you, and develop a catch phrase so they know what you want. Once they have mastered the first item, you can teach them other commands. Be patient and consistent. Offer plenty of praise and treats when they complete the task correctly.

Service Dog

A service dog typically does not stay with their trainer. They are trained by a specific group and then placed with an eligible person. Their training does continue when they are placed and they will continue to learn as they settle into their new homes and routines. When you have a service dog in your home, they will be trained specifically to help with your disability and they will help better your daily life. 

Conclusion

There are plenty of activities that a helpful dog can perform that will benefit your daily life. They enjoy being useful and completing tasks so use their natural propensity to perform jobs. It will take a lot of time and energy to properly train your dog to be able to perform specific tasks. Stay with it and once they are trained you will have a dog that you can show off to your friends and family.