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Could Your Canine Companion Become a Therapy Dog?

Your golden retriever Savannah wants to become a therapy dog. After her canine buddy received his Therapy Dog certification, he and his owner/volunteer handler regularly visit several cooperating facilities. Each month, this dedicated team visits a nursing home, hospital, and assisted living facility. He especially enjoys spending time at your town’s elementary school, where he listens to children practice their reading skills. After seeing her friend’s excitement, Savannah wants to get started. As your canine housemate navigates the application process, your veterinarian can provide professional guidance.

Health Assessment

Each reputable therapy dog non-profit operates with specific application guidelines. Generally speaking, the group welcomes healthy adult dogs who are current on rabies vaccinations, and possibly other shots. To avoid external parasite transmission, the group might require that the dog participates in a flea and tick prevention program. By giving Savannah a physical exam, and providing proof of vaccinations, your vet can help your dog over this hurdle.

Temperament Testing

After you submit your application, an approved evaluator assesses your dog’s temperament. The tester wants to determine if Savannah remains calm and friendly in varied challenging situations. Your companion must be willing to reliably follow your commands and stay relaxed when strangers pet or brush her. She must be able to easily function around crowds, wheelchairs, and multiple dogs or children. The assessor simulates several scenarios to gauge your dog’s response.

Obedience Skills

Although Savannah’s well behaved at home, she must demonstrate obedience skills within the community. Here’s where the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test comes in. Used by many therapy dog organizations, the ten-part AKC Exam is conducted by a designated evaluator. First, your dog must display an approved response to basic obedience commands. She must walk calmly down the street and through a crowd. She’ll meet another dog, respond to a distraction, and greet a friendly stranger. You might briefly leave the room after handing your dog’s leash to a trusted friend. To receive the AKC Canine Good Citizen patch, your furry housemate must handily demonstrate these skills.

You must be comfortable interacting with people of varied ages and physical conditions. Be prepared to keep Savannah’s obedience skills sharp and to regularly maintain her vaccinations and health checkups. If your canine housemate might be a good fit for therapy dog work, contact your veterinarian for expert assistance.

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