Training therapy dogs can be just as therapeutic as using a therapy dog! You can learn more about the benefits of using a therapy dog here, as I will be discussing the training aspect of these wonderful dogs!
Did you know that you can train your own dog to become a therapy dog? Often times there are long waiting lists for therapy dogs, you can get around this by training your own therapy dog and then having him or her certified.
Training therapy dogs is very similar to the training of any standard dog. Obedience is the cornerstone of dog training, therapy dog or not. You will want to begin by training basic commands and over time by using verbal or physical cues. Most trainers recommend training with a clicker.
From basic training and obedience, you will want to move on to on and off the leash performance of those same commands. Your dog will need to be obedient on and off of the leash to be certified for therapy.
Once your pup has mastered obedience both on and off the leash, you will want to surround him with new scents, sounds and people as a therapy dog needs to not be phased by his surroundings. His only concern should be you, his master. You will also want to train him to ignore cats, dropped food, and loud noises. This is one of the most difficult training steps, and will take a lot of time and patience!
You may also want to teach your dog a few additional commands, such as to come when you are sad or in pain.
When your dog, and you!, are ready you can then take him to get certified as a therapy dog and avoid the long waiting lists! Therapy Dogs International has some great information on certification locations near you!