The Puppy Training Podcast

Episode #84 Therapy Work

November 04, 2021 Baxter & Bella Puppy Training Season 4 Episode 84
The Puppy Training Podcast
Episode #84 Therapy Work
Show Notes Transcript

Today we are talking about therapy dogs and address the following:

What is a therapy dog? 

  • What is the difference between a therapy dog, emotional support dog and a service dog? 

How do you train your dog to be a therapy dog? 

  • When do you start?
  • How long does it take?
  • What things does your dog need to know how to do?
  • Who do you certify with?
  • How old does your dog need to be?

Where can you take your therapy dog?

  • What places allow therapy dogs to visit?
  • Organizations offer insurance - your dog will be interacting with the public.


Support the show

Hi everybody. I feel like we are friends? May I call you all my friends now? I really appreciate you checking in with me each week and taking away something you can then go do with your dog. Hopefully the tips I share are helping with leash walking, puppy biting, housetraining, crate training, jumping and more. Today I want to focus on things that go above and beyond basic training. Many of you are to the point where you and your dog are doing really well. You have a daily schedule figured out, a basic understanding of dog behavior and how to achieve success, your dog is peeing and pooping outside, and you are able to go for an adventure together. Now what? 

Others of you are just getting started - or even waiting to get started - and that is an exciting time as well. Our program has everything from preparing you for your puppy to come, helping that first week together, as well as basic and intermediate training courses. I hope you are accessing the many resources we’ve provided for you. We LOVE what we do. 

Today is geared towards teaching you about possibilities. You may know Baxter - if you’ve come to my classes or gone through our learning modules you’ll know him as the cute creamy with a chocolate nose Australian Labradoodle. I am training him to do therapy work in our local community. I would like to take him to the high schools on ACT day, our college campus for finals week, the elementary schools to read with the first graders and local libraries to read with children there. He is currently 8 months old and doing pretty well. He is in his adolescent phase and we have a few things like barking and some hesitancy around sudden loud noises to work through, but he’s getting there. I don’t believe in forcing a dog to do something, so I’m always watching to see if therapy work is something he would like to do. So far, he loves people, is very snuggly, likes to get in the car and go places, enjoys laying his weight across my lap, gives kisses and high fives and relaxes well on the floor while I work. These are all good qualities for therapy work. So we will see! 

I get a fair amount of questions around what Baxter and I are currently working on so I thought we’d discuss it on the podcast today. 

First, what is a therapy dog. We often hear of emotional support animals, therapy animals and service animals. 

I want to start by clarifying what each of these are and the main differences between them. The ADA National Network explains it well on their site. 

Emotional support animal

They state “According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an emotional support animal is any animal that provides emotional support alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Emotional support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Emotional support animals are not limited to dogs.”

A comfort or therapy animal

“Both types of animals, typically dogs, work in situations where stress levels are high.  Comfort animals work during active crises. They offer a calming distraction to those impacted in an active disaster or emergency. Therapy animals provide people with healing contact, typically in an institutional or clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. While these types of animals receive extensive training and may interact with all sorts of people, including an individual with a disability, they are not trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability.”

A service animal

“Under Title II and Title III of the ADA, a service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. “

In a nutshell, service dogs are required because of a disability and have been trained to perform specific tasks to benefit their person. They have rights to go with their person wherever they go in public to assist them. 

Emotional support animals and comfort or therapy animals do not have those same rights. Individuals with a disability may use and interact with working animals for a variety of reasons.  But only dogs who have received specialized training to perform a specific task or tasks for an individual with a disability are considered service animals.  This is the key difference between a service animal and all other types of working animals, including therapy, comfort animals, and emotional support animals.

Now that you know what a therapy animal is, what do they do and where can they go?

Therapy animals assist in schools, libraries, hospitals, airports, retirement communities, really anywhere there is a need for comfort and healing. Animals are wonderful at sensing our needs and connecting with our souls. In recent studies dogs have been shown to improve reading skills. Reading to dogs is a simple effective way to help a child feel comfortable reading free from judgement, eliminating risk if they stumble on the words and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to interact with a furry loving friend? 

I am looking forward to visiting local libraries and schools with Baxter to share his love with others. 

Are you wanting to do therapy work with your dog? Where do you start? I recommend all puppies go through our online puppy school completing the BASIC, INTERMEDIATE and Canine Good Citizen courses. Training skills that are helpful for therapy work are walking on a loose leash in public, a simple recall, sit and down stays, greeting people politely, relaxing on a mat and TRICKS! People love to see tricks which is a great way to break the ice and form a connection with those you serve. 

Once your dog has passed these levels, it is time to find a therapy organization in your area to certify through. Each has their own regulations so you’ll want to become familiar with them as well as contact them with any questions you may have. Because therapy dogs interact with the public, it is important to be insured. Therapy organizations provide you with this coverage once you have passed their exam and certified as a team with your dog. 

Organizations also often have relationships with facilities which makes your job easier. They provide you with a vest and ID for your dog as well as locations where you can serve. There are requirements such as the dog must be at least one year old and have lived with you for at least six months. This varies from organization to organization so you’ll want to check on those details as you decide which one to work with. The AKC website has a great resource page of therapy organizations to help you find one in your area. 

So if you are interested, join Baxter and me as we go through our journey of becoming a therapy team. Either way, I highly recommend finding something you and your dog love doing together. What does your dog like to do naturally? If they are friendly, enjoy going in the car places, confident in new places and think no one is a stranger, therapy work might be for them. Thank you for taking the time to train your dog. It is an investment that pays off big time! Have a great week and happy training.