Most people think it is the friendliest, most obviously exuberant dog that makes a star therapy dog. The dog that bounds up to people, barks a greeting, jumps on them, tries to lick their faces, and gives them big hugs with big paws.
Or the dog who wants to play with every other dog in the dog park. The one who runs up to dogs for a good sniff and “chat.”
Or the dog who is totally opposite and so quiet it lies in one position on his owner’s lap and never looks at anyone else. Never even looks up when called by name.
These are not the qualities we look for in therapy animals.
The effusive dog that is excitable, overly playful or drawn to other dogs for play would not be able to have the impulse control to be calm, steady, reliable and dependable in a variety of environments, surrounded often by unknown stimuli.
The perfect therapy animal is calm, loving, well trained, people-centric, bonded with his owner but not too attached to appreciate other people, extremely focused on his “job” and happy.
The perfect therapy dog has solid obedience training and can maneuver into spaces you would never think a dog could fit into.
The perfect therapy dog understands why he has to Turn Right, Turn Left, Walk Calmly on a Loose Leash, Stay in Place for long periods of time and signal when he has to go to the bathroom!
The perfect therapy dog has clear displacement signals so his owner knows when he has had enough for the day.
The perfect therapy dog not only accepts handling but revels in the human touch.
The perfect therapy dog makes complete eye contact and always turns to his name.
The perfect therapy dog does not use training apparatus such as prong or metal collars.
The perfect therapy dog has been trained in small spaces, not open outdoor areas, and is comfortable very close to people and other animals.
The perfect therapy dog never reacts to anything, sounds, smells, visual distractions and certainly not to other dogs or animals.
The perfect therapy dog emits a sense of confidence and comfort.
Delta Society Pet Partners only graduates star therapy dogs so if you think you and your dog have what it takes find a course at www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx?pid=282