Pet therapy dogs are extremely useful in the world, especially for people with disabilities and other health problems.  There is a common misconception that therapy dogs need to be a certain breed, or raised to be pet therapy dogs from a very young age.  However, therapy dogs can come in all breeds and sizes!  Whether you want your pet to work in a hospital, a school or a retirement home, he will provide joy to numerous people throughout his life as a therapy animal.  If you’re interested in getting your dog certified, follow the steps below.

1)    Find a trustworthy therapy-dog organization. 
You can browse on the internet to find an animal assisted therapy organization in your state that offers a training program.  Call the phone number of the one that interests you and they will get you started.  Make sure to research more than one organization and ask plenty of questions before you decide on one.  You can probably meet with a trainer to learn more about the organization, too. 

2)    Go through an evaluation and a training course.  
Most animal-assisted organizations should offer a thorough evaluation, training program, basic obedience training and follow-up.  If they don’t, then you might want to reconsider the program you put your dog through.  An experienced trainer will evaluate you and your dog as a team and place you in the appropriate training courses.  Proper training courses should approach the dogs using positive reinforcement and patience.

3)    Start Volunteering! 
An organization called The Good Dog Foundation maintains relationships with hospitals, schools and other facilities where they help schedule and familiarize pet therapy dog teams as they begin their outreach.  After certification by a therapy organization, you and your dog can volunteer on your own.  You can even work with that organization to find volunteer opportunities in your area. 

Becoming a therapy dog team is very rewarding once you get started.  Remember, not all dogs are meant to be therapy dogs.  If yours doesn’t make it through the training programs, it’s not the end of the world.  The key is team work between you and your pet.  If you maintain a good relationship with your dog then you will likely form good relationships with the people you visit.  Therapy training may take a lot of work, depending on your dog, but it’s all worth it in the end.

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