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Comforting Canines: How to Certify a Therapy Dog

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Do you have a furry friend who loves getting out and socializing with people? Do you like spending your time helping others feel better?

If so, then you and your sweet pup might want to look into therapy dog certification!

Becoming a certified therapy dog isn’t necessarily difficult or complex, but there are a few important things to know about how to certify a therapy dog.

Let’s talk about what a therapy dog is (and isn’t), and what it takes to become a therapy dog.

How to Certify a Therapy Dog

What Is a Therapy Dog?

Before diving into therapy dog requirements, let’s go ahead and clear up exactly what therapy dogs do. These dogs go with their owners to places like schools, nursing homes, and hospitals to volunteer with people in these settings.

Hospital therapy dogs, for example, might help children in hospitals to feel more comfortable and at ease in a scary and unknown environment. Therapy dogs in nursing homes may socialize with senior citizen residents.

In all cases, therapy dogs work with their owners to improve the lives of the people they visit.

Therapy Dogs ? Service Dogs

It’s important to note that therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs, and thus do not share the same privileges.

Certified service dogs undergo much more training, and are permitted in nearly all public places. Therapy dogs are still considered normal pets, and must still follow all pet policies in public places like parks, restaurants, hotels, etc.

Do not try to pass your therapy dog as a service dog!

Therapy Dog Requirements

There are a few basic requirements to be a therapy dog. To register with a therapy dog organization, your dog must:

  • Be at least 1 year old
  • Be up to date with all required vaccines

Additionally, there are a few personality traits that will make your dog a better fit for therapy dog certification, such as:

  • Sociable and friendly
  • Likes to be petted / likes human interaction
  • Calm-natured and well-behaved

Excessive jumping, licking, barking, etc. are signs that your dog may need further behavioral training before he or she is ready to be a certified therapy dog.

If, after further behavioral training, your dog is still antsy, aggressive, or generally unhappy around people, then he or she might not be the best fit for a therapy dog.

Therapy Dog Training

In order to be a therapy dog, it is absolutely crucial that your dog be well-trained and well-behaved.

Most therapy dog certification programs recommend that their dogs go through Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Training before registering as therapy dogs. The CGC certificate is a recognized standard that shows your dog’s good behavior, socialization, and ability to follow directions.

Therapy Dog Certification

Once you’ve ensured that your dog meets all requirements of age, vaccinations, temperament, and behavior, then it’s time to get registered with a therapy dog organization!

Many organizations will require your pet to go through a test before certifying them as therapy dogs. They will test to make sure the dog follows directions, behaves well around humans, etc. For dogs that have already gone through CGC training, these kind of tests are usually no problem for them to pass.

When choosing a therapy dog organization, think about where you live and where you want to work with your dog. If you have a particular school, hospital, nursing home or other location in mind, then reach out to them and ask about their preferred requirements for therapy dogs.

Go Spread Some Puppy Love

Now that you know how to certify a therapy dog, we hope you and your pooch will be fulfilled and rewarded as you work together to improve other people’s lives!

Keep coming back to our blog for more information like this and other helpful dog tips!

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