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How to Determine if Your Dog Is Eligible for Therapy-Dog Training

From hospitals to nursing homes to schools, therapy dogs work to help bring happiness to people who need it. Find out if your dog has what it takes to tackle this important and rewarding job.


  • TIP: Help a shy dog become more accustomed to new people by taking them to new places and giving them treats each time they let a stranger pet them.
  • Step 1: Find a therapy-dog group that you want to work with. Sign up for any additional training classes that they might offer, and learn about their guidelines for therapy dog testing.
  • Step 2: Find a local evaluator for your therapy dog group and pass the test to join the group. Then you can begin your therapy visits, knowing that you and your dog are working together to help bring joy to people who need it.
  • FACT: A 2004 American Kennel Club survey revealed that pet owners on average spend about $2,500 each year on their dogs.
  • Step 3: Train your dog to be friendly toward strangers. Be sure the dog will let you meet a new person without jumping on the person. Make sure the dog will also let a stranger pet them.
  • Step 4: Teach your dog not to bark or run away if you come across distractions, like sudden, loud noises or other dogs. Be sure your dog will not panic when they see something new, like a wheelchair or a walker.
  • Step 5: Train your dog to walk beside you on a leash, even through a crowd. Train them to turn with you when you move to the left or right. Don't let them pull on the leash or bother anyone in the crowd while you're walking.
  • TIP: Consider taking an obedience training class that follows the guidelines of the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen Program. This program forms the basis of most therapy training.
  • Step 6: Train your dog to sit, stay, and come on command. Have them sit and stay, even when someone comes up and pets them. Be sure that the dog will stay if you walk away, and that they come when you call.
  • Step 7: Be sure that your dog is at least 1 year old to qualify for therapy dog training. Have a veterinarian examine them, and make sure all shots and tests are up to date.

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