Dear Jeni: How do I know if my dog could make a good therapy dog?
Any dog with the right qualifications can be a candidate to become a therapy dog! Therapy dogs can help people in a range of ways such as comforting nursing home residents to aiding in the recovery process for people with health issues. So if you think your dog might be a candidate, a good place to start is by taking the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test, which covers many qualifications, skills, and temperament tests your dog will need to qualify as a therapy dog. Some standard requirements your dog will need are: a calm demeanor, friendly & accepting of strangers, adults, children and other dogs. Your dog will need the ability to sit & stay for long periods of time (on command), ability to walk calmly through a crowd, and have good manners even when you’re not present. Most important is that your pet likes to be hugged! Therapy dogs are trained to absorb emotions and feelings from people who are in need of healing. These are just a few examples of what makes up a good therapy dog candidate. Your dog will also be required to pass a Therapy Dog Evaluation which includes exposing them to a variety of distractions that your dog would encounter out in the field such as wheelchairs, walkers etc. Consult with a dog trainer or certified CGC evaluator to review all the requirements your dog will need to become a therapy dog.