How to Pick a Good Therapy Dog
Qualities That They Need to Have
If you have decided that you are interested in getting a new dog, you may be overwhelmed by the number of dogs that are for sale and up for adoption. It can be really hard to find the perfect dog, simply because there are so many options.
You may also be interested in finding one that could become a therapy dog. You could take him or her to different nursing homes and hospitals, to help make people feel better.
Here are some things you need to consider when looking at dogs that would be good as therapy dogs.
If you are interested in taking your dog to hospitals and nursing homes right away, you might want to get a mature dog instead of a puppy. Even if you are interested in having a therapy dog, a puppy might not be your best chance. They are fun, but you can't guarantee how the puppy will behave as he grows up. He might develop some characteristics that will not be good for going to a hospital or a nursing home.
If you do decide to get a mature dog, be sure to look at many different shelters and rescues. Ask the workers and volunteers. Be clear with them what qualities you are looking for. Often, they work closely with the animals in their care and should be able to find the perfect companion for you.
Do not get stuck on a certain breed when you are looking for a good therapy dog. Although some dogs are better suited for the job, breed does not guarantee that your dog will work well as a therapy dog. Qualities are much more important than the breed.
As for qualities, you need a dog that is friendly with both people and other pets. They need to be calm and levelheaded, so they are able to handle the commotion of a hospital or nursing home. Therapy dogs need to enjoy being petted and held because that will be their primary job.
You also want an intelligent dog who is able to follow basic commands. Your dog needs to be able to walk on a leash without pulling. They can not jump on people. They must respond to simple commands, even when there are distractions and noise.
You can't forget that these dogs will be touched regularly. They need to be comfortable being touched, including their ears, feet, and any other part of their body. Any dog that may even think of snapping at a person would not be a good fit.
Not the most important thing to consider, but therapy dogs need to be easily cleaned. Every dog needs routine baths and toenails trims, but some dogs are easier to keep clean. You might not want a dog that needs frequent haircuts or a dog that sheds every time you take him somewhere. Drooling is also going to be a problem.
Therapy dogs will have to learn to work around distractions. Hospital furniture and tools are often unfamiliar to most household dogs. There are often loud noises and funny smells. A good dog, even if startled, needs to be able to remain relatively calm.
He or she can't be food aggressive. You can't have a therapy dog who is going to jump at any pieces of food that get dropped. Instead, he or she will just have to learn to let it go. A dog that is aggressive around food will not work out well in a hospital.
It is a big responsibility to decide that, in addition to getting a pet, you want a therapy dog. However, you need to find the best dog possible for the job. Spend time looking until you find exactly what you are looking for so that visiting hospitals and nursing homes is a pleasant experience for both of you.
About the author
Small town country girl in southern Pennsylvania. Raising two boys on a small farm filled with horses, goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, dogs, and a cat. Certified veterinary technician and writer at Virtually Shelley.