Your dog. . .
- Must love people. Not just you, not just your kids. They should love everyone! Says McConnell, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, “Good therapy dogs need to be the kind of dogs who ADORE people, all people, and want nothing more than to connect with them.”
- Shouldn’t be distracted by other dogs. There are some dogs that care more about being with other dogs than with people. That doesn’t mean they are bad dogs. But they probably aren’t the best for therapy work.
- Isn’t freaked out by weird things. Hospital equipment, for example. And while a lot of desensitization training can help with this, the fact is, certain dogs are just calmer than others and less sensitive. Says McConnell, “Therapy dogs need a certain level of rock-solid soundness to be good prospects.”
- Loves children. Many therapy dog programs (Pawsitive Kidnections, for instance!) involve work with children. Good therapy dogs need to remain calm and collected even when the children are not.
- Is well-trained. Sure, maybe Fido knows how to shake and roll over, but can he sit patiently for long periods of time while strangers pet him?
- Has a calm personality. Similarly, can you trust your dog to not jump up on a young child or knock something over with his wagging tail? This is why young dogs often don’t make the best therapy dogs, but this doesn’t mean they won’t ever qualify. “Leaping, licking, pawing, and body slamming just don’t work in senior centers and hospitals. This is why so many dogs don’t qualify when they are young but could be great prospects when they are older,” explains McConnell.
- Enjoys being petted. Some dogs enjoy human companionship but don’t really like being petted that much. But therapy dogs must enjoy human contact, even if it comes from children with rough pats on the head or arthritic patients with unsteady hands.
- Is clean and tidy. This one is more in your ability to control. Your dog needs to be healthy, up-to-date on all vaccinations and healthcare, and very, very clean. Some organizations require therapy animals to be bathed the day before each site visit.
- Loves his job. It isn’t enough for them to merely tolerate the work. For the safety of the people you are serving, and in the best interest of your pet, your dog needs to truly love her job.
$25 helps us with adoption fees, paying for training classes for the dogs (which the foster families attend when ready), paying for resources for the dogs (like food!), and helps pay for gas for dog transport!
For Further Reading
- Kindred Companions (2015). 6 Signs Your Dog is a Good Therapy Dog Candidate. Kindred Companions. Retrieved from https://www.kindredcompanions.com/for-the-love-of-dog/2015/4/18/signs-your-dog-is-a-good-therapy-dog-candidate
- McConnell, P. (2012). Therapy Dogs: Born or Made? Patricia McConnell. Retrieved from: https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/therapy-dogs-born-or-made
- McConnell, P. (2018). Dog Assisted Therapy: Is Your Dog A Good Fit? The Bark. Retrieved from https://thebark.com/content/dog-assisted-therapy-your-dog-good-fit