A therapy dog is a dog who visits places like schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Therapy dog training in Grand Rapids teaches dogs to provide comfort, support, and affection to the people they meet, particularly vulnerable people like children, seniors, patients in hospitals, and so on.
Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to help a person who has a disability. This distinction is important because therapy dogs do not have the same access to public places like service dogs do. For example, service dogs can go into restaurants, but therapy dogs cannot. Therapy dogs still provide a valuable service and should receive therapy dog certification.
For full package details (with disclaimers) please reference our pricing page.
Who Do Therapy Dogs Help?
Therapy dogs may be regular visitors to a variety of people and places, with hospitals and rehabilitation centers being among the most common. Children, in particular, respond positively to therapy dogs.
Seniors in assisted living or people with mental disabilities who live in facilities and experience feelings of isolation also see a lot of benefits from visiting with a therapy dog.
Besides providing valuable social opportunities and relieving anxiety, therapy dogs may even help lower blood pressure and heart rate in patients and the other people they visit.
Why Are Therapy Dogs Important?
Therapy dogs offer unconditional love, non-judgmental interaction, reduce stress, anxiety and loneliness, and provide an overall positive distraction to ailments. Research shows therapy dogs can have a positive effect on a patient’s mood, stress and pain levels during facility stays.
Young patients — children — seem to benefit most from working with therapy dogs. They are more motivated to participate in treatments, feel optimistic about the future, and experience an overall sense of calm when a certified therapy dog is present.
For people who may have a hard time socializing due to mental disabilities or their living situation, therapy dogs can promote social interaction within their community and help them to connect.
How Does a Dog Become a Therapy Dog?
If you have felt the benefits of owning a dog, you may feel inspired to help more people feel the unconditional love, joy and support your dog provides. However, having a friendly, loving personality isn’t enough for a dog to qualify as a therapy dog. Some other qualifications to consider are:
- The age of your dog. Puppies do not make good therapy animals.
- How obedient your dog is. It’s important your dog listens to you and obeys basic commands. Dogs that go through obedience training with Dog Training Elite West Michigan have the perfect foundation to go onto therapy dog training, as long as they are old enough.
- How social your dog is. Your dog may be affectionate with you — but are they affectionate with strangers? Do they like to receive attention from strangers, particularly petting?
Therapy Dog Handlers
As a dog owner, it’s important to reflect on whether you would like to become a therapy dog handler as well. If you enjoy connecting with people, becoming a therapy dog handler may be a great fit. You can also choose where to volunteer to better suit your interests — if you like kids, volunteer to visit schools or children’s hospitals. If you prefer to work with older people, then sign up to visit senior living centers.
Once you’ve determined that becoming a therapy dog handler and helping your dog become a therapy dog is the right move for the two of you, you’re ready to start therapy dog training. The trainers of Dog Training Elite West Michigan are experts in the behaviors needed in a therapy dog and will help you and your dog either brush up on or master behaviors such as “leave it,” “watch me,” loose-leash walking and not jumping on other people.
To help your dog become well socialized, you may consider also signing up for one of Dog Training Elite West Michigan’s group obedience classes. A group class environment is also beneficial because it helps your dog learn to be obedient when there are a lot of distractions around, a crucial skill for a therapy dog.
Once you’ve completed initial training, you’re ready to apply for therapy dog certification in Grand Rapids. However, it is important to note that this certification is not the end. It’s important to stay on top of your dog’s training and continue to help them be the best therapy dog they can be.
Proud Sponsor of The Malinois Foundation
At Dog Training Elite West Michigan, we believe that Service Dogs save lives. It is our mission to make these life-saving companions available to our Veterans, First Responders, Women Survivors, and Children with Medical Needs. Whether it be for PTSD, Mobility Support, or Special Needs, Dog Training Elite West Michigan work's with the Malinois Foundation to heal and empower these individuals with a specialized service animal, a partner in life, and a new best friend.
Why do Therapy Dog Training with Dog Training Elite West Michigan?
The Dog Training Elite West Michigan training method stands out because of its emphasis on positive reinforcement. Dogs are never punished for bad behavior, instead they are rewarded for good behavior. This kind of training makes a huge difference in your relationship with your dog, and will make a difference in how your dog interacts with other people.
The balanced training method of Dog Training Elite West Michigan fosters a dog’s naturally loving and obedient nature. Focusing on positive reinforcement and rewarding good behavior helps build a strong bond between dog and owner built on love and trust. This foundation in turn becomes a great foundation for dog and owner to become a fabulous therapy team providing an invaluable service to the community.
If you feel therapy dog certification is right for you and your dog, get started by contacting Dog Training Elite West Michigan. Request your free training demo and in-home evaluation today.