An Introduction to Therapy Dog Training

Out of all of the various components that go into a therapy dog, training is one of the very most important. Therapy dogs are akin to service dogs of other types. They help to care for and accompany people who are sick, disabled in some way, or otherwise in need of companionship. They can be trained to help with minor tasks and simple activities, and they are also meant to help contact authorities or medical professionals if the patient in question is in need of assistance. Because therapy dogs must take and pass a set of exams in order to be qualified for work in a hospital, orphanage or other related environment, the training that they receive is extensive.

Basic Training for Dogs

As a foundation for therapy dog training, it's a good idea to familiarize the animal with the basic set of commands and feats that he would normally need to do, regardless of whether he was trained for therapy work. This includes being able to come, sit, stay, and also being able to observe other basic commands. These are the crucial foundational elements of any trained dog's behavior, and this is no exception for therapy dogs.

Once your pet has mastered these basic commands, there are many others that you may wish to introduce to him as well.

Additional Skills and Traits

Therapy dogs must have a certain set of personality traits that can come about naturally and which may be honed through developmental training.

First, a therapy dog must be sociable and warm. Dogs with tendencies toward aggressive behavior, isolation and other antisocial characteristics generally do not make good therapy dog candidates.

When honing these natural traits and skills, it's important to work early. Make sure that your pet realizes from an early age that it's alright if strangers approach him. He should also feel comfortable approaching strangers as well. Introduce him to a wide variety of people of different ages and temperaments to get him comfortable with all types of potential patients. The dog should not become protective of his owner or of any other person that he's with.

Problem Behaviors

Therapy dogs should be well behaved and avoid engaging in many of the standard behaviors that most dogs do. This includes excessive sniffing, licking, biting and other types of contact with patients. Therapy dogs should, ideally, sit calmly without touching the patient that they are with. They should be receptive to pets and attention but should not generally seek it out.

Because it is obvious that therapy dogs require a great deal of natural skill and ability on top of extensive training, there are professional trainers who work to select potential candidates early on in age. If you think that your pet may be a therapy dog candidate, or if you'd like more information about training therapy dogs in general, speak with one of these professional trainers for more advice and information.