In simple terms, a therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and TLC to people in a variety of settings – hospitals, schools, retirement homes, nursing homes, and hospices – among other institutions.
The training of therapy dogs is more generalized and shorter in duration than the training of service dogs or emotional support animals which provide support to owners with physical or mental disabilities. Their training can go on for years before they become certified.
Having a friendly puppy is the first step in getting started in pet therapy. Other prerequisites include a dog that:
- Is at least one year old;
- Well behaved at home and in public; and
- Not easily distracted or startled
If you think your pet has what it takes to become a therapy dog, you’ll need to have him/her screened by a therapy organization. In St. Petersburg we have the Southeastern Guide Dogs (www.guidedogs.org) and the Dog Training Club of St. Petersburg (www.dtcsp.org)
It is a big commitment for both owner and pet but the rewards are beyond tremendous!
- Therapy Dogs – Google Books
- Angel on a Leash: Therapy Dogs and the Lives They Touch, by David Frei
- Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others, by Kathy Diamond Davis
- Volunteering With Your Pet: How to Get Involved in Animal-Assisted Therapy with Any Kind of Pet, by Mary Burch, Ph.D.