Advice for Becoming a Therapy Dog

March 16, 2012  

We are celebrating the incredible therapy dogs this month. So we asked our Facebook fans, ’If you have a therapy dog, we want to know where you took the test with your pooch. Did anything unexpected happen during the test? Do you have any words of wisdom to offer others?’

We are so amazed at your therapy dogs and thank you for your words of wisdom to others considering having their dogs certified. Thanks everyone for sharing.

My sweet pittie Rocco The Therapy Pit Bull (above) took two tests. One with his class in a nursing home. That one was pretty easy. He was with his classmates and we visited the residents, practicing everything we had learned in the eight months of training he had done. Rocco did really well and loved the idea of going into peoples rooms to say hello. The second test he took was with our group that we belong to Pets on Wheels of Central Maryland. This was similar to a temperament test. We did run into one problem during the test. The lady giving the test had to pull on his ears, tail and then pinch his toes and legs. When she got to his front legs Rocco let out a huge cry! He was suffering from a painful growing disease at the time. I explained this to the lady and she took him from me and went over him again. When she came back she said he’s a sound dog! A lot of dogs would bite or growl when they are in pain but not him! Rocco passed the test with flying colors.

~ Valerie Pitbullmama Wilson

We’re working with a trainer to get both our dogs certified through TDI. Porter’s got a couple more issues to work on and we just got Arcadia started. Looking forward to when we can take them out working someday!

~ Amy Rever-Oberle

Basil took the test with his dog, Lily at Bass Pro Shop and a nursing home. Nothing unexpected happened, but Lily had fun playing in the tents at Bass Pro Shop with some new friends she met.

~ Alexander Thomas

My dog Martha Washington, age 10, (right) is a therapy dog with The Good Dog Foundation and Therapy Dogs Incorporated. We adopted her from Philadelphia Animal Control when she was 8 years old, and she began volunteering as a therapy dog in the past year. Here she is after passing her Canine Good Citizen test, with her medal and her rosette. As a spokesdog for ELDERBULLS, Martha Washington encourages everyone to remember you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

~ Kim Wolf

Gus is a therapy dog with Therapy Dog International. We took our test in Youngstown, Oh. Gus is actually the very first Am. Staff to receive his AKC Therapy Dog Title!

~ Joann Sesser

I agree, especially when the dog is for sure gonna pick up on your rattling nerves.

~ Melanie Schoonmaker

The first thing people need to do is relax. What’s the worst that can happen? You fail? That just puts you back to where you were before you started the test.

~ Ashley Scott

I have tons of notes on how to become a therapy dog, training, what to expect on my page and also on APBT Network University, if anyone wants to take a peek or stop by and ask questions feel free. In my opinion most dogs with a good temperament can pass. Therapy dogs are born not made training just brings them to their full potential no matter the age or breed. A certification is very important, but that test alone doesn’t make them “therapy dog” Their actual performance while working is the true test of their abilities. I say this because the test for the most part is expected and structured though some may have a few curve balls thrown in LOL, but real life is always unexpected. I’ve had five of mine certified and have been doing therapy work for almost 14 years. I’ve tested with TDI and Bright and Beautiful. With Apache, I was already doing therapy work with special needs children and honestly didn’t realize that there was testing/certifications at the time. I just happen to be at an obedience match where I saw it being offered. I watched asked questions and tested her that very day. During Apache’s test the evaluator dropped the crutch on her head when she lost her grip on it. Patcheeno’s test didn’t have any twists to it. Steel was actually run over by a wheel chair accidentally during his test, (which was “supposedly” in the locked position-NOT! EEK!), but he didn’t even make a peep or react in any way. During Bodacious’ (above) test a random person just walked up in a very pushy way, literally interrupted the test evaluator to ask asking questions about what we were doing. Right before we went in the building for Touché’s test, another team waiting for testing kept allowing their little dog to jump on her. All mine passed with flying colors. Little things to help before testing are, be prepared for the skills/ proof your dog on what will be tested, walk/potty the dog prior, and stay calm and focused on your dog. Keep up the great work everyone!

~ Patch O’ Pits Therapy Dogs

My pit bull mix Omega is double certified. First we got certified with Love on a Leash, then we moved to Orange County, Calif., and got certified with PAWS. Both processes were similar – the CGC test and their own test. Omega did PERFECT both times. The only surprise to me was how great she did without food rewards. We always train with food and she’s very food motivated, but the tests don’t allow it. Still, she was a super star!

~ Micaela Myers

Goliath (below) is going for his test on the 17th of this month!

~ Jen Chess

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One Response to “Advice for Becoming a Therapy Dog”
  1. khermas says:

    I would advise not only formal obedience classes, but expose your dog to all sorts of people, situations and other animals, and do it often.  Stay calm and in control and only reward calm behavior.  Being calm and approachable is the most important attribute a potential therapy dog can have.  I have two, both certified by TDI and both Labs from rescues.  Both were timid at first, one because he had not been exposed to much outside his home, and the other because I suspect she had suffered some abuse.  We worked through it though.  I just kept on taking them places with me, rewarding good calm behavior and not giving them attention for being anxious, afraid, etc.  I also had them in agility classes to help them to feel confident and to learn to trust me.  They are both confident happy and friendly dogs now and everyone loves them!