Therapy Dog Workshops

Therapy Dog Classes Westport MA

What is a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs are dogs who go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. From working with a child who is learning to read to visiting a senior in assisted living, therapy dogs and their owners work together as a team to improve the lives of other people.

Science has shown us how beneficial therapy dogs can be. Visits from a therapy dog can lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce patient anxiety, and increase levels of endorphins and oxytocin.

How are Therapy Dogs different than Service Dogs?

Service Dogs are trained to perform tasks and to do work that eases their handlers’ disabilities. Working as part of a team with their disabled partners, service dogs help them attain safety and independence. It is very important to note that these dogs are not for petting as it could prevent them from performing their job correctly. Most service dogs have a “no petting” policy established by their owners.

Therapy dogs also receive specialized training but have a completely different type of job from service dogs. Their responsibilities are to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers. These dogs have stable temperaments and friendly, easy-going personalities. Typically, they visit hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes, and more. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a variety of people while they are on-duty.

Therapy Dog Workshop

What qualities make a good Therapy Dog?

Therapy dog candidates should be naturally calm, friendly, and affectionate to strangers. They also need to be well trained in basic obedience, able to easily adapt to new or strange noises, places, smells, and equipment. Therapy dog organizations also require that therapy dogs be healthy and have regular wellness check-ups and be well-groomed, clean, and brushed at the time of all visits.

How do I train my dog to become a Therapy Dog?

First, begin socializing your puppy or dog to new people, places, objects, and surfaces. It's also a good idea to obtain the AKC Canine Good Citizen title on your dog and train necessary behaviors for therapy work including, look, leave it, loose leash walking and not jumping on people.

Then, enroll your dog in our Therapy Dog Workshop. Our Therapy Dog Workshop will prepare you and your dog for therapy dog visits (equipment, situations, handler preparation). Check our Dog Training Calendar to see when the next Therapy Dog Workshop is offered.

What your dog will learn in our Therapy Dog Workshop:

1. Handling - You dog needs to be accepting of a stranger touching head, ears, paws, tail, petting all over, hugging, etc.

2. Basic Obedience - Your dog must have a good understanding of Sit, Down, Stay, Out of Sight Stay, Recall on Leash, Waiting at Entries

3. Walking - Your dog must walk by your side on a loose leash. He must be able to walk through a crowd of people and walk around other dogs without barking or lunging.

4. Basic Manners - Polite greeting, no jumping, etc.

5. Leave It - Ignore treats when offered from patients, ignore food on the ground, ignore water on the ground.

6. Reacting to Unusual Situations - Comfortable maneuvering around wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, etc. Comfortable around all types of people. Comfortable with sudden loud noises (things dropping), comfortable with vacuum cleaners, etc...

7. Reacting to Children - Comfortable around and able to ignore children playing, running, yelling, etc.

Finally, register with a national therapy dog organization. They will provide support, advice, and insurance. There are many different local and national Therapy Dog organizations that you can become a member of. Each has it’s own particular requirements for membership and participation. The exercises you and your dog will work on in this Therapy Dog Workshop will prepare you to successfully pass even the most stringent requirements.

National Therapy Dog Organizations

  1. Love On A Leash (loveonaleash.org)
  2. Alliance of Therapy Dogs (therapydogs.com)
  3. Therapy Dogs International (tdi-dog.org)