When the worst mass shooting in US history occurred in Orlando, Florida last Sunday, not only the country, but the world rallied around everyone affected by the unthinkable event. Almost immediately, a troupe of golden retrievers was deployed with the mission of providing relief for the grieving. Their job was a large one, after forty-nine people were killed and more than fifty people injured in the deadly attack. Here is a look at how comfort dogs help.
10. How Therapy Dogs Are Trained
Many people are inspired by stories of a dog’s power to heal or ability to uplift a person’s mood. In turn, they want to train their own dog to become a therapy dog. Some common misconceptions are thinking dogs have to be a certain size and breed or they need to be trained from a young age.
Therapy dogs come in a variety of sizes and breeds, but the one commonality is that they provide unconditional love, they listen with confidentiality and do not judge, they are intelligent and have the ability to work in a hospital, school, retirement home or community setting. Finding a place to work or volunteer requires some research and commitment on the part of handlers.
The first thing to do is understand the difference between certification and registration. Registration consists of a one-time screening for a handler and its dog, both of whom have to only meet minimum requirements. Certification brings training up to a certain level, which is often viewed as more reputable. Some organizations do not provide true therapy certifications.
Find a reputable therapy dog organization which provides an evaluation, training, obedience training and a follow-up. Experts recommend all of this should be offered with positive reinforcement and rewards-based techniques. Volunteering is also an excellent way to get a foot in the door and allow both the handler and dog to gain experience in a variety of settings.