Back-to-School: Therapy Dog Training

Have you considered therapy dog training for your pup or adult rescue? Would you like to work as a therapy dog team to support your community by visiting with area school students or senior centers? If yes to those questions, now is the perfect time for you and your dog to go back-to-school too by enrolling in training classes to prepare for therapy dog certification.

therapy dog training

Bob Wharton is a professional dog trainer with Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center as well as an approved American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluator. Bob and his Golden Retriever, Jackson, have been a therapy dog team for many years. Bob is co-president of Angel on a Leash Therapy Dogs.

“If you recently adopted a puppy or rescue dog and are considering becoming a therapy dog team, the first step in training is to provide socialization and a wide variety of experiences, including different noises and situations. Socialization is important for all dogs, regardless of whether therapy work is a consideration,” said Wharton.

What type of dog makes a good therapy dog?

“Being a good therapy dog has nothing to do with breed, age or size. Good temperament is key. Does your dog enjoy being around people of all ages? Does your dog have good obedience skills, and does your dog feel comfortable in a variety of settings such as a school or hospital?” added Wharton.

While a formal training program is not required to become a therapy dog, showing good obedience skills is an important part of passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen test which is usually a requirement for joining a therapy dog organization.

Obedience skills covered in basic training at Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center include:

  • Name
  • Nose
  • Sit
  • Look
  • Place & Stay
  • Down
  • Come
  • Wait
  • Leave it
  • Walking

Training gives you and your dog a vital form of communication with each other while creating trust and setting expectations of behavior. Enrolling in additional training can reinforce basic skills, and help prepare you and your dog to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.

The AKC Canine Good Citizen test covers 10 skills:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting
  3. Appearance and grooming
  4. Walking on a loose lead
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Appropriate response to the obedience commands: Sit and Down
  7. Coming when called
  8. Reaction to another dog
  9. Reaction to distraction
  10. Supervised separation

Even if your dog does not become a therapy dog, having the CGC certificate may provide other benefits like a discount on homeowners or renter’s insurance by showing proof of your dog’s character and abilities.

In order to become a therapy dog team with Angel on a Leash (AOAL), you must show proof that your dog passed the CGC evaluation. Your dog’s CGC certification does not have to be registered with the AKC—but it is a nice title for official recognition. AOAL administers a therapy dog test to become one of their champion therapy dog teams.

The AOAL test includes the handler (you) and the dog working together to demonstrate CGC obedience skills and response to sounds and equipment in an emulated environment. Currently the AOAL test is administered at two different locations in Bucks County. Three to five dogs test at one time which also shows that each dog is comfortable with and not easily distracted by the other dogs. Additional requirements for testing include the handler being at least 18 years old and the dog being at least one year old.

Angel on a Leash champion therapy dog teams visit area hospitals, assisted living facilities, and schools with their Angel Readers – Fetch Me A Book! program. Even under current COVID-19 restrictions, the champion therapy dog teams have been able to provide virtual companionship and comfort to students and senior citizens. For more information about Angel on a Leash Therapy Dogs or to schedule a visit, contact 215-478-6762.

Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center offers several training options to match your goals, time and budget. A weekly Puppy Social Hour is free and available to puppies between two and six-months-old for a fun way to socialize with a variety of breeds and sizes. The most popular training programs are the Stay & Learn program combined with a resort lodging stay and a Play & Learn program combined with the resort dog daycare service.therapy dog training

These training programs include an extensive evaluation to determine your goals and the needs of the dog in order to prepare a customized training program. Multiple training sessions for the dog are held throughout the day with different professional trainers. Bob has worked with some clients to prepare for the CGC evaluation. To register for the free Puppy Social Hour or schedule a training evaluation or program, call 215-345-6960.

September is back-to-school season, so it’s the right time to enroll your puppy or adult dog in a training program. Obedience training offers life-long skills and a form of communication between you and your dog. Dogs enjoy learning and enrichment activities which provide confidence and a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s basic obedience, advanced training, or preparing to become a therapy dog, enroll your dog in a class today!