If your dog is a social butterfly and likes making new friends you may want to consider having him certified for therapy work. Therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and while not every dog is cut out for this type of work, most friendly dogs have a very good chance at being certified. What else is required? Good canine manners are required in order to pass the therapy test. given by the various organizations. The AKC Star Puppy program and later the Canine Good Citizen® or CGC are great places to start especially since the latter is a foundation for many of the evaluating tests of the different approved organizations. What makes therapy work testing different is the observation of both dog and handler, working as a team and interacting with others. When testing, evaluators look to see not only if the dog is sociable, but also to see if the owner handles their dog in a way that minimizes risk, if they are able to “control” the visit, and interact appropriately with those they visit.
When introducing dogs to the various pieces of medical equipment in a training setting, care should be taken to keep things positive. Trainers will often lure dogs to approach the strange item, whether it be a wheelchair, walker, four-footed cane, or crutches, then click and treat. The goal is to build confidence around these items so that the dog is relaxed and can do the job it was meant to do. Also a firm grasp of the “leave it” command can be a lifesaver since pills and other foreign objects may appear on a hospital or nursing home floor.
While it takes time to train and certify a dog for this work, it is well worth the effort to see the smiles on the faces of those you meet. There is nothing quite like it.