Think your dog has what it takes to be a therapy dog and become a popular visitor in your local nursing homes? Before this can happen, your dog has to meet certain training standards and be approved by the facility you plan to visit. Many nursing homes have very specific requirements that include registration and certification.
You may also need to have liability insurance issued by providers such as The Delta Society or Therapy Dogs International. At a minimum, most will require your dog to have passed the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test. There are some nursing homes and senior centers who do not require certification, only that your pup prove that he is well-behaved. Be sure to check with your local nursing homes to see what their requirements are before you take your pup in for a visit.
If you are going to take your pup to visit the residents of your local nursing home, he must be very well-behaved. Of course, if you are planning to take your pup for visits, he must be very people-friendly and have a very laid-back demeanor. The main role of a therapy dog is to provide a range of support, affection, and comfort to those he visits with. In order to be considered for the role of therapy dog for nursing homes, your dog must:
Before getting started, you should be aware that training your dog to be a therapy dog can be a lot of work and take quite a bit of time. This is a job for your dog and as such, he should like doing this type of work. Dogs that are trained to herd or track may not be ideal, but those breeds who are known to be highly intelligent are much better suited.
There are several behaviors your dog must learn before he is considered safe and ready to put a smile on the faces of the many elderly people he will visit. While you may not need much in the way of actual supplies for this training, you will need a few things:
Getting your pup ready to work as a therapy dog is no easy task, even if your dog is good with people. He still needs to be trained to behave at all times and must be capable of following commands without question, no matter how many distractions there happen to be.
How do I get her certified to visit nursing homes?
She is gentle.
Loves people and all other dogs.
Hardly barks. (I live in a condo so this a big plus).
Doesn’t jump up on people.
Will sit, go down and stay on command with treats. Doesn’t heel well. Mostly comes when called.
I have visited with other dog I had and it is so rewarding for everyone.
Hello Mary, It sounds like Sophie would probably make a wonderful Therapy Dog candidate. There are several different organizations that have their own Therapy Dog Testing. You will need to pass one of those tests to become certified and possibly have a tester observe Sophie at a hospital or nursing home a couple of times also. To do that you will need to find a tester near you who is conducting testing in your area. Most tests are pretty affordable. You can find a list of Therapy Dog Organizations that can certify Sophie on this website: https://www.akc.org/sports/title-recognition-program/therapy-dog-program/therapy-dog-organizations/ The first list on that website is a list of Organizations that she can test with. The second list on that website is a list or therapy dog groups and clubs. After becoming certified you may want to join one of those groups for support and encouragement in the Therapy Dog program. You can check them out and see if one near you looks like something you would like to join. You can also reach out to one near you with any questions. Of the organizations listed on that website, Therapy Dog International and Alliance of Therapy Dogs are both pretty well known and accepted, especially Therapy Dog International. You can join Alliance of Therapy Dogs as a member and buy liability insurance through them if you wish to get insurance. Both of their websites also have a page for upcoming tests and testing locations. The direct links to those pages are: Therapy Dog International https://www.tdi-dog.org/HowToJoinUpcomingTests.aspx Alliance of Therapy Dogs https://atdmemberportal.com/Public/FindATO.aspx Many of the Therapy Dog Certification organizations require you to do a certain amount of visits to a hospital or similar location while under the observation of the tester, in addition to the one-on-one testing beforehand, in order to certify you. Three visits to a hospital under supervision is common. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I have 2 former puppy mill mamas that were discovered among over 20 dogs when the breeder died unexpectedly in March. They are just now learning how to dog. They are 7 and 9 pounds and do no yet walk around much. I need to carry them or they do t really move. Very, very sweet girls with only 4 teeth (all Maddie’s).
They thrive getting attention.
Do you think they are good candidates?
Hello Samantha, At this point in time they would likely not qualify. They would have to be able to walk on their own, not startle easily, be well trained, and fully house broken, which they might already be. With work it might be possible to get them to the point where they could be certified if they are very patient and friendly toward people, which it sounds like they are. A great place to start is a Canine Good Citizen class, since that class would be the first step toward learning all of the skills that they would need in order to pass a Therapy Dog evaluation. To find out what type of skills they would need in order to pass a Therapy Dog Evaluation in order to visit nursing homes check out this website: https://www.tdi-dog.org/HowToJoin.aspx?Page=New+TDI+Test Once you understand what is involved in the final testing it might be easier for you to determine whether or not you want to work toward that goal with them. Best of luck training, Caitlin Critttenden
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We've adopted this rescue Frenchy, he loves people and is well behaved in all aspects of his new environment except he is very aggressive toward other dogs. Children and unknown humans are not an issue, but he turns into Kujo when he is with other dogs. He was raised with his mother and 2 chihuahuas. We would love to have him be a hospital visit dog as he has the relaxing effect on people. Your thoughts ?
Hello Robert, Does he act aggressive when at a distance or does he also try to attack dogs when he actually meets them? If he is also aggressive when up close, has he ever drawn blood in a dog fight or does the fight just look scary but the other dog does not appear to be physically harmed afterwards? I ask because whether or not he would ever be able to be a therapy dog will largely depend on how dangerous he is around other dogs and whether or not the aggression can be treated. If he is only reacting aggressively towards other dogs when he sees them at a distance, but he is completely fine when he actually meets them, then he is likely leash reactive and not truly aggressive. Many dogs who act scary while on a leash but are fine during interactions have simply learned to act that way because of frustration or because of fear. In the case of fear, the dog is usually trying to keep the other dog away by acting scary. This type of fear can be treated by socializing the dog in a very positive way around other dogs, so long as your dog has never injured another dog. If it is reactivity, then I would hire a trainer in your area who has had lots of success in dealing with reactive and aggressive dogs to help you with the issue . You may be able to resolve this type of issue and move onto therapy work, but the issue will need to be solved in order to pass a Canine Good Citizenship or Therapy Dog certification test, often a precursor to being accepted into hospitals. If you dog has drawn blood on another dog and is truly dangerous around other dogs, I would not expect for your dog to ever be able to pass as a Therapy Dog. Many of the tests required for therapy work do require for your dog to be calm around other dogs, and even if your hospital does not require certification for some reason, there is always a chance that you will encounter another Therapy Dog and an aggressive response from your dog could put patients in danger. If your dog is aggressive when he meets other dogs but has never actually injured another dog, then you will have to decide whether or not you want to pursue hiring a local trainer with experience in treating aggression to work with you and your dog. Some dogs' aggression can be treated or managed to the point where you would pass a Therapy Dog or Canine Good Citizen evaluation, but many never get to that level even with treatment. Most people with dog aggressive dogs can get to the level where they can take their dogs for a walk or be around well trained friends' dogs without an incident, but up-close, free interactions are never possible for many aggressive dogs. That still might be something worth pursuing for your own peace of mind though. Dealing with the aggression could reduce both your and Ollie's stress during dog interactions. My advice in this scenario would be to hire a local trainer for your own benefit and see how Ollie responds before pursing Therapy Dog work. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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