Everything You Need To Know About Being A Therapy Dog – Golden Hearts
therapy dog golden retriever

Everything You Need To Know About Being A Therapy Dog

Ever thought about getting your dog certified as a therapy dog?

When you see the smiles your golden brings to others, it’s hard not to.

Therapy dogs provide so much value to people in need.

They help sick or grieving people in hospitals, they help teach kids read by lending a judgment-free ear, they brighten up nursing homes with a fluffy hug and a goofy smile, and so much more!

But in order to get from crazy puppy to gentle therapy dog, there’s a lot the dog and the owner needs to do.

To help us learn about what it’s actually like being a therapy dog and how to become one, we had a conversation with Yani from Carefree Goldens.

We cover:

  • What therapy dogs actually do
  • Why Yani decided to have her dogs become therapy dogs (and why she used to be terrified of dogs!)
  • What makes a good therapy dog (does your pup have what it takes?)
  • The necessary steps you need to take get your dog certified as a therapy dog
  • How to train your dog (even if you’re busy!)
  • And lots more!

Check out the video below for our conversation with Yani.

Enjoy!

(P.S. have a question about becoming a therapy dog? Let us know in the comments below!)

How To Become A Therapy Dog [VIDEO]

Carefree Goldens

therapy dogs golden retrieverEnzo, Cooper and Tazio are some of the cutest pups out there.

Enzo and Cooper, both five years old, are therapy dogs with Gabriel’s Angels, while Tazio, five months old, is a therapy dog in training.

When they’re not working they’re like any trio of goldens, playing in the backyard, going on hikes, wrestling, or swimming.

What do therapy dogs actually do?

 

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Therapy dogs work in a variety of situations.

They can work in nursing homes visiting with the residents, at hospitals caring for the sick and the grieving, at libraries helping kids learn to read, at airports helping travelers deal with the stresses of travel, and many more situations.

Yani’s dogs work at the library, airport, assisted living home and Gabriel’s Angels.

At first, I was surprised that they work at the airport.

I mean, isn’t traveling fun?

Not for everybody, she reminded me.

Traveling for funerals is certainly not fun.

And missing flights is not fun either.

Yani shared one story where a woman and her young daughter were waiting for their flight, sitting and crying together.

Enzo walked up to the girl and she gave him a big hug as she cried, clinging onto him.

There was another scenario where a traveler’s wife reached out to her after her husband met her dogs in the airport.

He has a heart condition and gets anxious when he flies, although after meeting Enzo before his flight, he was cool as a cucumber on his flight.

Yani’s dogs also help out at the library.

Children read out loud to the dogs without fear of being judged or messing up.

This builds their confidence and reading skills.

What Makes A Good Therapy Dog?

 

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A good therapy dog needs these two qualities:

  1. A calm, gentle temperament
  2. Obedience

Therapy dogs need to be calm and gentle and allow people to love on them.

Since events like children running up to them happen frequently, they can’t be skittish or easily frightened.

They also need to be obedient.

When there are lots of people or other dogs around, it’s important for a therapy dog to obey their owner.

Bonus quality: a good therapy dog needs a good owner!

These dogs aren’t going into the hospitals, libraries or assisted living homes alone.

If you love people and want to share your pup’s love with the world, you just might have what it takes to be a therapy dog’s owner.

How Does Your Dog Become A Therapy Dog?

 

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If you want your dog to become a therapy dog, Yani recommends joining an organization like Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners.

A big benefit of joining these organizations is that they have insurance to cover you and your pup while you’re out on the job.

To be a member with one of these organizations, you and your pup will need to pass a series of tests to prove that you two are fit to be a therapy dog and therapy dog handler.

The earliest your pup can take the test is at one year old.

Before then, it’s good to socialize your dog, get them used to children, and teach them dog manners and obedience.

Yani recommends taking your puppy to a place like Home Depot where they can get used to being around a bunch of people in public.

Which leads us to our next point…

Training

golden retriever dog training for therapy dogsAny dog, not just therapy dogs, needs to be trained to some degree.

There are two major reasons for this:

  1. The better trained your dog is, the more you can take them places and enjoy them.
  2. Lack of training is one of the main reasons dogs end up in shelters.

So, how do you train your dog?

Here are four tips to make training easier:

  1. You need to bond with your dog. If you two have a strong bond, your dog will want to obey you, and it’ll be easier to communicate with them.
  2. You need to be committed. Training a dog takes time and persistence, but it will pay off way more than you can ever imagine.
  3. You need to be patient. Your pup will not understand what you’re trying to get them to do the first few times, but they’re trying!
  4. Your dog needs a lot of repetition. The more times they get it right, the stronger their obedience to that command is.

Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, being consistent with training your dog will work wonders.

How You Can Help

 

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Given all the love, hope and support therapy dogs provide, it’s important to remember that these dogs and their owners are not getting paid to do this.

People like Yani volunteer their time to give back to their community, so here’s how we can help support them:

  1. Yani does her volunteer work through Gabriel’s Angels. Gabriel’s Angels is a non-profit organization, so if you want to support their mission of “Pets Helping Kids”, you can do so here: https://www.gabrielsangels.org/
  2. Since Yani is not getting paid for this, she has a regular job. Of course, any time she is working, she can’t be volunteering with her dogs, so she has created CarefreeGoldenCards.com where she sells greeting cards featuring her cute pups. Her goal is to quit her job and make a living from the greeting cards so that she can spend more time volunteering and giving back to the community with her dogs.

Resources

What they eat:

Their favorite brand of toys:

Who they volunteer with:

  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • Gabriel’s Angels
  • Public Library
  • Assisted Living Home

Where you can get certified and registered:

Where you can keep up with Carefree Goldens:

Conclusion 

golden retriever therapy dogsIf you want to give back to your community and your dog is loving and gentle, getting him or her certified as a therapy dog might be perfect for you!

It’s a great way to share their love, and your dog will enjoy it.

Have any questions about becoming a therapy dog?

Let us know in the comments below!

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