Training your dog to be a therapy dog can be so rewarding. Your dog will love his new job. There are many dogs that are well suited for this position in life. Your dog does not need to be a pure bred fancy dog - a mixed breed dog that has a good personality will bring joy to those he visits. He needs good manners and his coat needs to be clean. Do not bring your dog to a facility if his coat is matted and dirty. If you do not bathe him yourself, then take him to a groomer. Make sure the toenails are clipped, so as not to scratch furniture or skin. A dog that is going to be petted and hugged needs to be sweet smelling. It's also good to brush your dog to get excess hair that might be shed. Many dogs have hair that does not shed and are good for people with allergies to hair – like Yorkshire Terriers.There are other wonderful dogs that do not shed, but even if your dog sheds his coat, that does not disqualify him from being a therapy dog. Just do some extensive grooming before he makes his rounds.
You and your dog may need a refresher course in manners and dog behavior training. You may chose to train your dog yourself at home. You need to make sure that your dog understands basic commands of sit, stay, come, down and some hand signals from you.You want to make sure your dog has the proper temperament to be a therapy dog. He cant be nippy or barky and he must love being petted and hugged. He can not be wary of strangers, as he will be meeting new people.
Going to an assisted living facility can be stressful for both you and your dog the first couple of times. You may want to visit the facility without your dog at first to get the feel of the place, so that you know your way around. Meet the staff and possibly some of the residents to see who will welcome your future visits. You need to know the entrances and exports that you and your dog are welcome to use. Also, find out where your dog will be allowed to go and relieve himself. Always take some doggie bags with you to clean up behind your dog so that you will be welcome to come back in the future. As your visits will probably take a couple hours, be sure to have water and maybe a little food for your dog. After all, all this visiting takes a lot out of your dog!
There may be an outdoor area like a covered porch where several of the residents might be able to gather to meet you and your dog.This works nicely for those residents that are in wheelchairs. You will need to know if anyone is afraid or allergic to dogs. You do not want them in an uncomfortable situation, but you also do not want to place your dog in an uncomfortable situation either.
There will always be a certain amount of stress each time you visit with your therapy dog, as there will be new residents to meet. As long as your dog is comfortable in this situation, the smells of the facility and different noise levels will not be a concern. You will get to know many residents of these facilities if you visit on a regular basis. It will mean so much to those who are bound and have not enjoyed dog companionship in a long time.
If you have the companionship of your dog on a daily basis, can you imagine how much you would miss that if you suddenly could not have your dog with you anymore? That's why therapy dogs play such an important role. You will both be greatly rewarded.
So, if your dog needs a little extra training, it's time to start., So you can start bringing some joy back into the lives of these people living in these nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities. Let's start spreading some joy!