How To Have Your Dog Declared A Therapy Dog? (Easy Steps)

Let’s begin with How To Have Your Dog Declared A Therapy Dog? You will require an ESA letter from a therapist to certify your therapy dog as your ESA. This is your best option if your present therapist is familiar with ESA regulations and can assist you in creating an ESA letter. You are advised to get assistance from a reliable ESA resource if you do not have access to an ESA doctor or ESA therapist.

Being able to have dogs as pets is a blessing for humans. We used dogs to look over cattle or aid in hunting. They are now here to give us the help we sorely need. Regrettably, misconceptions about assistance animal policies are common. 

How To Have Your Dog Declared A Therapy Dog?

When people are in a facility or some people need to visit to address a health or emotional issue, a therapy dog offers them comfort and compassion. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs that perform a specified task for a person with a disability and have unrestricted access to the general public are not the same as therapy dogs (ADA).

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They are also not emotional support animals, which do not require specialized education or licensing to perform their job but need a prescription from a mental health or healthcare expert.

What Makes A Good Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs provide numerous physical advantages to the people they visit. They might lower heart rate and blood pressure, lessen patient anxiety, and raise endorphin and oxytocin levels. It’s not a one-way street, though. According to studies, therapy dogs make money from their work. Therapy dogs have higher levels of oxytocin and endorphins than typical household pets.

Hospitals, libraries, schools, and disaster sites receive therapy dogs. According to Linda Keehn, CPDT-KA, proprietor of Positive Canine Training and Services in New York and a therapy dog trainer, evaluator, and handler, “basically any location where a clientele exists, and it would be useful for the dogs to be there.”

But for example, you can’t just take your dog to visit a relative in the hospital. Therapy dogs must be registered with and certified by a respected national organization. However, certification is the last step in a thorough procedure that involves temperament testing, training, and more on the way to becoming a therapy dog.

How Does A Therapy Dog Get Certified?

The procedure for getting a therapy dog is relatively straightforward. There are only three steps required to register a therapy dog, but they do require some time and effort:

Step 1 Adopt

Choosing which dog to adopt is the first and most crucial step in getting a therapy dog. You should conduct a study because some breeds are more appropriate for therapy services than others. You may also speak with qualified dog trainers and veterinarians to gain guidance on selecting the ideal dog for the task.

However, it would help if you didn’t focus on the breed, as this does not necessarily reflect a dog’s temperament, demeanor, or personality. While it’s not typically the case, you can find a breed that isn’t typically associated with therapy work, like a rottweiler or pit bull, that is ideal for cheering up patients. For example, you might see a golden retriever that isn’t particularly gregarious and doesn’t like being touched. It will ultimately depend on each dog individually.

So, after researching breeds and characteristics to watch out for, you must visit a shelter nearby. Adopting a dog is always advised over purchasing one from a breeder. You can frequently discover some of the most lovable, outgoing animals among shelter dogs. Even though they can grow up to be therapy dogs, puppies are considerably simpler to teach than older dogs. However, senior dogs can still be just as devoted and submissive as younger ones.

Spend time with the dog once you’ve determined it satisfies the requirements by playing with it, relaxing, and keeping an eye on its demeanor and disposition. A dog’s suitability for therapy sessions can usually be determined very quickly. If they can make you smile, they can also make a patient smile!

Step 2 Train

You must start the training regimen as soon as you have decided on a dog to bring home. While there are many ways to train dogs, we advise that you speak with a specialist. Although many dog owners prefer to train their dogs themselves, seeking guidance from professionals who train animals daily will save you time and help guarantee that your dog is prepared to visit patients.

You’ll want to ensure that your dog engages in several desirable activities and abstains from undesirable ones. For instance, they will look for behaviors that are inappropriate for therapy work when you go to register your dog. Dogs that enjoy jumping up on people, barking loudly, or chewing on objects won’t be accepted. Dogs that are highly timid and do not enjoy approaching people will also not be chosen.

As a result, you must confirm that your dog demonstrates the qualities listed below.

  • Obedient
  • Friendly
  • Quiet
  • Outgoing
  • Unaggressive
  • Gentle
  • Not easily startled
  • Relaxed

Step 3 Register Your Dog

Most organizations certify therapy dogs demand that they be at least a year old and have received all of their most recent vaccinations and injections. Your veterinarian’s documentation confirming your dog’s age and medical history is required.

When you believe your dog is prepared to serve as a therapy animal, it must be registered with an appropriate agency (such as usserviceanimals.org) and complete a test. A certification test is necessary for this. Your dog must pass this test by exhibiting the traits needed for therapy work. The testing agency will ask you to keep training them if they cannot pass the requirements.

It’s also crucial to remember that when you go to register, more than only your dog will be tested. Additionally, your skills as a dog handler will be tested. Your dog won’t be certified if you can’t demonstrate that it obeys your directions and that you understand how to handle your pet in a therapeutic environment.

Before registration, the American Kennel Club (AKC) advises that dogs pass the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. The AKC states that these ten qualities are the emphasis of this exam:

  • Accepting a Friendly Stranger is Test #1. In a standard, everyday setting, the dog will permit a kind stranger to approach and chat with the handler (the dog owner).
  • Test 2: Be Courteous When Being Petted. While out with the handler, the dog will let a pleasant stranger to pet it.
  • Third test: grooming and appearance. The dog will allow someone to examine its front feet and ears, much like a groomer or veterinarian would.
  • Test No. 4: Take a Walk (walking on a loose lead). The dog will stroll on a loose lead (with the handler/owner) as directed by the assessor.
  • Test #5: Navigating a Crowd The dog will move between at least three persons as it passes through a small group of pedestrians.
  • Test 6: Sit and Down on Direction and Maintain Position The owner selects the location where the dog will be left during the stay after the dog has proven that it can sit AND lie down on demand.
  • Test 7: Responding when prompted. When summoned by the handler, the dog will arrive (from 10 feet away on a leash).
  • Test 8: Response to a Different Dog. The dog will be respectful to other canines. From around 20 feet, two handlers and their dogs approach one another, stop, shake hands, and say hello.
  • Reaction to Distractions Test 9. The dog must respond appropriately to two distractions that the examiner chooses and presents, such as a chair falling.
  • You supervised Separation Test 10. This experiment shows that you can leave your dog with a reliable companion. The assessor will hold your dog’s leash for three minutes while you are away.

There is an excellent probability that your dog will be accepted as a therapy dog if they pass the CGC test. After your dog has been registered and certified, it is still advisable to use caution. Even if an animal passes the test with flying colors, it might not be ready to deal with patients in a new setting. Before bringing your dog to more formal therapy sessions at a healthcare center, it is advised that you try it out with friends or family.

Can Any Dog Be A Therapy Dog?

Even if your dogs may show you unwavering affection, this does not automatically make them suitable for therapy work. Similar to how you might not make the best therapy dog partner even though you are an empathic human, How can people and dogs become a therapy dog team, and what qualities make a successful therapy dog?

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Since many organizations do not accept puppies younger than a year old, therapy dogs must be at least one year old. Additionally, many groups need that dogs complete the AKC Canine Good Citizen(CGC) test for obedience; however, some want an alternative test tailored specifically for therapy dogs.

These components are crucial for any therapy dog appearing in public, according to Keehn, who teaches and tests dogs for CGC and therapy certification. A dog unable to “leave it” when asked to or socialize amicably with kids won’t succeed.

Age and breed don’t matter beyond that. A Yorkshire Terrier that weighed only four pounds and a Beagle that was 13 years old were both successfully CGC-tested by Keehn. Keehn will only examine teams for which she had no involvement in training to avoid conflicts of interest. In addition to basic obedience, the dog must be naturally friendly, not too young or energetic, and want the work.

Most dogs enjoy their work, claims Keehn. “Your dog’s duty can be to hike with you, or it might be something else—however, most dogs like working in some capacity, which is an excellent profession for them. Giving a dog a job it doesn’t desire is unfair, though.

What Kind Of Therapy Dog Would Your Dog Make?

Keehn suggests observing your dog carefully and objectively to ascertain its genuine character. Most importantly, she advises asking yourself if your dog enjoys receiving affection from someone besides you.

Keehn queries, “Does the dog genuinely enjoy connecting with new people in various situations?” Is it quiet, and does it seek attention from people? The friendliest dog might be in your living room, but not outside. People who need therapy most frequently want a dog that will sit by them and allow them to pet it.

In essence, potential therapy dog candidates have a calm disposition and are affectionate with strangers. Additionally, they have a solid foundation in fundamental obedience and are quickly adaptive to unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, and tools. Most therapy dog groups also demand that dogs be clean, well-groomed, and have routine health and wellness examinations.

Would You Make A Good Therapy Dog Handler?

Both the dog and the owner may learn new things as a result of training a therapy dog. The dog’s universe expands, and you assist your neighborhood as a pair. Keehn advises becoming a member of a local or national therapy group that hosts social gatherings.

By doing this, you and your dog can become good friends. She also stresses the benefits of working with therapy dogs for both people and dogs. However, she warns that although the handler and the dog work together, handlers occasionally need to fulfill unexpected responsibilities.

Keehn says, “getting out of yourself and serving others might improve your mental and physical health.” You might be the only non-medical person a veterans’ organization or hospital sees when you bring a dog. It might be the first meaningful exchange they’ve had in days. Be ready to connect with the client as the therapy dog handler. Attending a cognitive dog training course might be beneficial.

Mentoring another handler skilled at training a therapy dog is another piece of sound advice for handlers. For more background or experience, consult a reliable trainer. The majority of therapy dog organizations, according to Keehn, provide printed materials or websites that you can peruse in advance.

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Final Verdict

Now, it’s time to conclude How To Have Your Dog Declared A Therapy Dog? Choosing to get a therapy dog is a significant choice. You must ensure that your dog is adequately trained and capable of offering emotional support to persons dealing with illness, physical limitations, or mental health issues. Both the owner and the dog may feel the strain of this.

As a result, only consider getting a therapy dog if you’re prepared to commit. As an alternative, you require the endorsement of a certified healthcare expert if you believe you require an emotional support dog or if you want to have your dog legally recognized as such.

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