The AKC Therapy Dog Training program was established to create a regulated way for awesome volunteer facility visitors to bring along their companion safely and bring some joy to folks in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, hospice facilities and more. It’s a wonderful program that’s fun for all, from the patients and staff to the owners and dogs.
To qualify for the program, dog and owner (henceforth referred to as “The Team”), must meet certain criteria. Here’s more about what The Team can expect.
For starters, The Team must be well groomed and current on all innoculations. Dogs must be at least a year old while owners can be any age as long as those under 18 are accompanied by an adult.
Only standard buckle collars or slip leashes may be used for Therapy Dog training and visits. Training collars, harnesses, halties or other corrective products may not be used.
For the test itself, we start at the front. A Therapy Dog must be able to walk on a loose leash and perform STOP, LEFT, RIGHT manuevers and adapt to a fast or slow walking pace.
The dog must be comfortable, calm and confident with structural and architectural elements that could be encountered in a more commercial setting, including revolving and sliding doors or elevators. A shiny tile floor may be a challenge to a dog if they’ve never walked on one before.
Once inside, another series of tests evaluates the dog’s ability to maintain a stay or sit command.
One test requires the Therapy Dog to maintain the sit or lay down position as the other half of The Team sits at a table alone, with another person, and with distraction dogs positioned close by.
Next, the Therapy Dog must maintain position while the owner walks 20 feet away. In a similar exercise, the owner again walks away, but this time the Therapy Dog must calmly maintain position as the owner leaves the dog’s line of site with a stranger seated nearby.
A Therapy Dog must be able to navigate calmly through a crowd, which, during the test, will be strewn with a series of distractions.
One tests the “Leave It” command as The Team walks by a treat on the ground.
Another distraction includes children yelling, running and playing ball which the Therapy Dog must be able to ignore. The same applies to distraction dogs that are positioned along the path.
The dog is also tested with a human approaching The Team carrying a large box and remains calm as the box is laid on the ground and inquires to “pet the dog”. Another “Leave It” exercise is applied with an unfamiliar human offering the dog a treat.
Dogs love spending time with their fellow pack mates and also love having a job they can confidently accomplish. The Therapy Dog Training Program offered through Homestead Dogs provides a great outlet for both.
Some of the material for this article was gathered from Therapy Dog Training from the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Class is in session
Amy Durfey is a member of good standing of the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association (NK9DTA). NK9DTA is located in Columbus, Ohio and dedicated to promoting and maintaining the highest ethical and business standards in the care and training of dogs and their owners. NK9DTA advocates for responsible dog ownership and the benefits of canine health care, training, humane treatment and ethical breeding.
You can follow this link to visit the Homestead Dogs listing on the NK9DTA site.
Amy Durfey is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. Founded in 1884, the AKC actively advocates for responsible dog ownership and is dedicated to advancing dog sports. The American Kennel Club and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.
The Homestead Dogs listing can be found with this link to the AKC website.
Homestead Dogs, of course! We’re conveniently located between Columbus and Delaware between High Street (Rt 23) and Highway 42.
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