Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds and most people are surprised to learn that there are other types of therapy animals; it is not limited to just dogs. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted, cuddled and handled, sometimes clumsily, by unfamiliar people and to enjoy that contact. The medical community has shown empirical evidence of the benefits of therapy dogs, which reinforces the need for them.
In this article, we will discuss some of the training requirements and location restrictions for therapy dogs.
How Do I Get My Dog to be a Therapy Dog?
Household pets that are trained by the family, require no specialized therapy dog training, certification, registration, or documentation. However, the official designation of therapy dog only applies to dogs which have completed specialized therapy dog training. At the Alliance of Therapy dogs, the process is as follows:
Step 1: A therapy dog must be a friendly dog. Any mix or breed can be trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, and mental health institutions. Dogs must be at least one year old to begin training.
Step 2: A tester/observer in your area test you and your dog. This test includes a handling portion which tests your dog’s basic good manners, demeanor, and your handling skills.
Step 3: After you are tested, you and your dog are supervised by a tester/observer during three visits with residents of medical facilities or strangers. Upon a successful completion of these visits and submission of your application paperwork, your dog may become a Therapy Dog!
Can a Therapy Dog Go Anywhere?
There are a few restrictions for therapy dogs:
Businesses. There are no special rights for therapy dogs which would that allow them to accompany their owners into a business establishment. Businesses can refuse entry for therapy dogs, although this rarely happens. Since hotels, motels and campgrounds are businesses, therapy dogs are considered pets and must follow policy.
Housing and Pet Restrictions. The Fair Housing Act (FHAct) allows a person to keep a therapy dog in government housing with a “no pets” policy, this includes waving the size and weight restrictions. Under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Act, a landlord may not:
- Refuse to let you make reasonable modifications to your dwelling or common use areas, at your expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if you agree to restore the property to its original condition when you move.)
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
A well-mannered, well-behaved dog that enjoys meeting people can become therapy a dog and make a difference in the lives of those that need them. To learn more about how your dog can become a therapy dog or the ways in which you can lend support, visit our new members page here.