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How to Get a Therapy Dog Certification in 3 Simple Steps

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Pet Therapy dog visiting hospital

If you’re thinking of getting a therapy dog certification for your pup, you’re in luck. It’s not as hard as it sounds, and your pup will thank you for it. Therapy dogs can provide comfort and companionship to those suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. So, if you think your pup has what it takes to be a therapy dog, keep reading to learn more about the certification process.

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What Exactly Does a Therapy Dog Do?

A therapy dog is any canine who is partnered with a human handler and visits places like nursing homes, hospitals, or schools to provide comfort, reduce stress, and provide companionship to those in need. Therapy dogs are often trained to perform tasks such as lying down to provide a stable surface for patients to rest on, or even simply sitting with children who are lonely or in need of comfort.

No matter what their specific task is, therapy dogs are there to help people get through their day a little easier. There are many types of therapy dogs, each with their own specialties. Service dogs, for instance, are trained to help people with disabilities by assisting them with everyday tasks such as opening doors or picking up items.

Hearing dogs are trained to alert deaf people to important sounds like alarms or telephone ringtones and are often trained to use a special sign language to communicate with their human partners.

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How to Get Therapy Dog Certification

1. Find an Accredited Service

To get a therapy dog certification, the first step is to find an accredited organization that offers the service. You’ll need to make sure that the organization follows the standards set by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Once you’ve found the right organization, you’ll need to sign up and pay any fees associated with the certification.


2. Train Your Pup

Next, you’ll need to train your pup to meet the organization’s requirements. This will involve teaching them basic obedience commands, socializing them to various people and environments, and ensuring that they can stay calm and focused in different settings. You can complete the training with your dog yourself if you’re comfortable with it, or you can reach out to a professional dog trainer for help.

Therapy Dog Trainer
Image Credit: mezzotint, Shutterstock

3. Get Accepted by the Organization

After you’ve completed the training, you can take the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test and submit the results to the therapy dog organization. After the results are accepted, you’re all set. You’ll have a therapy dog certified to bring cheer, comfort, and healing to people in need.

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What to Look for in a Therapy Dog

Dogs are non-judgmental and loving friends who can listen to our troubles with patience and ease our burdens with their presence alone. With the right dog, even just an occasional visit to a hospital or nursing home can have a significant positive impact on those who need it most.

When selecting a therapy dog, there are many factors to consider. There are quite a few stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding therapy dogs and what they do. That being stated, it’s important to know what to look for in a therapy dog. Here are a couple of things to consider when choosing a dog for the job:

Age of the Dog

While all dogs are capable of being therapy dogs, younger but mature adult dogs (4-6 years old) are more likely to be the best candidates for therapy work. The reason for this is that older dogs may be less reliable due to age or health conditions brought on by age.

Energy Level of the Dog

It’s important to choose a therapy dog that has an appropriate amount of energy. You want a therapy dog that is calm and collected but also active enough to interact with people.

So, let’s take a look at a few breeds that make the cut.

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The 7 Best Therapy Dog Breeds

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever dog standing on the lawn
Image Credit: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock

Labrador retrievers are typically considered to be the best breed for therapy work. Labs are gentle, patient, and friendly towards people, which makes them excellent therapy dogs. They’re also very adaptable and easy to train, making them great for those who are new to therapy work.

Additionally, Labs are large dogs, making them very easy to handle with one person. These dogs are also one of the most common breeds of therapy dog, which means there are more resources available if you choose to adopt a Lab.


2. Golden Retriever

Golden retriever dogs lying on floor_
Image Credit: Tatyana Vyc, Shutterstock

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the world and are also great therapy dogs. They’re incredibly gentle and patient and are also very easy to train. Goldens thrive in a home environment, making them great for those who want dogs to fit into their daily lives. These dogs are also fairly large dogs, making them easy to handle for one person. Goldens are also a common breed of therapy dog.


3. German Shepherd

close up of a german shepherd dog
Image Credit: DasyaDasya, Shutterstock

German Shepherds are highly intelligent and very easy to train, making them great therapy dogs. They are also very independent, making them great for those who want a therapy dog, but don’t want to spend a lot of time training or managing the dog’s behavior.


4. Standard Poodle

standard poodle at the beach
Image Credit: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

Standard Poodles are extremely intelligent and friendly dogs that are also great for therapy work. They’re intelligent, eager to please, and have a gentle and loving nature. They are also incredibly intuitive, capable of reading and understanding body language, which makes them ideal companions for those in need.

Poodles can be trained to assist with a wide range of tasks, from providing comfort to those suffering from physical or emotional illness to helping people with autism or other conditions. And because of their intelligence and willingness to learn, they require very little training time. Plus, their hypoallergenic coats make them the perfect fit for those with allergies.


5. Pyrenean Shepherd

Pyrenean Shepherd
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

These intelligent and loyal herding dogs are becoming increasingly popular as therapy dogs. They’re highly trainable and have an even temperament, making them great for people with anxiety or mood disorders. They also have an independent spirit and strong instinct, which can help them in a variety of settings.

Pyrenean Shepherds are intelligent and alert and make great watchdogs. They are friendly and affectionate and love being around people. Most importantly, they are devoted and loyal, making them the perfect companion.


6. Siberian Husky

siberian husky
Image Credit: Sbolotova, Shutterstock

Not only are they incredibly loyal and loving, but Huskies also seem to almost have a natural affinity for people. This makes them perfect for providing comfort and companionship to those in need. Huskies are also incredibly smart, so they can be trained with ease. And with their thick coats, they’re well-equipped to handle colder climates, making them ideal for visits to hospitals or retirement homes.

Plus, their friendly, outgoing personalities make them a hit with all ages. With their gentle nature and unwavering devotion, Siberian Huskies are the perfect choice for a therapy dog – just be prepared for a bit of vocalization, as these pups love to howl, chirp, and whine.


7. Pugs

cropped old man holding an old pug
Image Credit: winterseitler, Pixabay

Pugs also make great therapy dogs. These small, friendly dogs are perfect for providing comfort and joy to those in need. With their gentle and sweet dispositions, Pugs are ideal for calming those in difficult situations. Plus, their playful nature makes them fun and delightful companions. Pugs are also great for those with mobility issues, as they are smaller and lighter than larger breeds such as Labs and Huskies.

Not to mention, Pugs are incredibly loyal and loving, providing the perfect level of comfort and companionship. With their cuddly natures and loving dispositions, they are sure to bring joy and happiness to any situation.

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In Conclusion

Therapy dogs provide comfort, reduce stress, and provide companionship to those in need. If you have a dog in your life that you think would make a great therapy dog, consider getting training from an accredited therapy dog organization. The process of becoming certified as a therapy dog takes a lot of work on the part of the dog and handler.

Basically, you’ll need to take a course with an accredited therapy dog organization and then pass a series of tests. You’ll also want to ensure you have a dog that’s ideal for therapy – and one that’s of the right age. There are many dog breeds that are great for therapy work. With the right dog, therapy work can be very rewarding and can have a positive impact on the world. All you have to do is decide which breed is best for you and you can get started with making a positive impact.


Featured Image Credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

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