Which dog is suitable as a therapy dog?
Who is suitable to become a therapy dog? What training is needed? Which breeds are good?
Which dog is suitable as a therapy dog?
Dogs can be valuable allies when it comes to supporting the most vulnerable people. Dogs trained for this role are called therapy dogs.
While any dog can be trained and certified as a therapy dog, there are certain characteristics that make certain breeds better suited for this role than others. - We report from our experience (I, Sissi, have completed therapy dog training myself with my Loki at Humanis et Canis in Salzburg, Austria and am so happy to have done it and to be able to go to school with Loki)!
What are therapy dogs?
Therapy dogs have been trained to provide affection, comfort and support to people in need.
Therapy dogs can help patients develop social skills, and they can make patients more open to participating in the therapy process and simply feeling more comfortable in a particular situation.
Characteristics of Therapy Dogs
While any dog can be trained to be a therapy dog, there are certain characteristics that a dog should have in order to be a good candidate.
Intelligent: The dog must be good at understanding when it's time to play and when it's time to stay calm and just be present.
Well trained: Therapy dogs need to be extremely well trained, both to perform specific tasks and to be highly controllable within the environment in which they work.
Focused: The environments in which therapy dogs are called upon to work are often full of people, noise, and distractions. For this reason, therapy dogs must be able to focus on one person or one task at a time.
Calm: Therapy dogs must have a calm temperament. They may also need to be able to sit quietly with a patient for long periods of time without becoming agitated.
Sociable: therapy dogs must enjoy being around people and other animals. They will likely not be the only animal working in their facility.
Likes to be touched: Not all dogs like to be touched and petted.
Gentle: Therapy dogs need to be aware of their size and strength, and they need to know how to behave in a gentle manner. It is also useful if they have a soft mouth to play with and pick things up without hurting them.
The best dog breeds for therapy dogs
While it's primarily about good training, some dog breeds are better suited for this role than others.
1. labrador retriever
Labrador retrievers are suited for all types of work. They are intelligent, adaptable and relatively easy to train.
They have the ability to focus on their task and love to please people. They also have a calm, patient and affectionate temperament, which makes them perfect for dealing with vulnerable people. Despite their body size, they are very gentle.
Crossbreeds such as Boxador and Aussidorcan also be trained and managed well as therapy dogs.
2. golden retriever
Like Labradors, you often see Golden Retrievers in working roles. They are intelligent, gentle, and friendly looking, so people have no problem approaching and hugging them.
They can be especially good for working with children, despite their body size.
If you have concerns about a golden retriever shedding too much, consider a poodle cross, which is a goldendoodle or labradoodle. These breeds shed less.
Poodles also make great therapy dogs, and not just because they hardly shed (or drool).
Poodles were bred to be companion dogs, so they love being around people, and they are also very good at picking up on people's emotions.
Dogs of this breed are also incredibly intelligent, which makes them adaptable and easy to train.
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