My dog doesn’t like other dogs but loves people; can he be a therapy dog?

Rocky and Kirby working together

Rocky and Kirby working together

I am often presented with very motivated owners who tell me “Why does it matter if my dog hates other dogs? We are visiting people, not dogs.” They do not understand why a dog that is reactive to other animals, but sweet and gentle around humans, cannot be a Pet Partner therapy dog.

Pet Partners believes therapy animals should always inspire confidence and reflect the training of the dog and abilities of the handler.

A dog that is barking or otherwise showing negative reactions to other animals does not do this. It causes people to be uneasy and not believe the handler can control the dog.

 

Three dogs visiting together - no problem

Three dogs visiting together - no problem

Pet Partners are being watched everywhere they go and whenever someone sees a Pet Partner therapy dog that person should feel confident, safe and comfortable.  Thus the dog should not bark, growl, lunge or in any other way be negative towards any other living being. If a dog is vocalizing or acting in an aggressive or frightening manner, the dog cannot possibly be viewed as positive

Pet Partners also does not believe the working animal should display a desire to play with other dogs or engage in any way other than a gentle sniff.  The dog’s primary focus should always be on the handler and people he is visiting or working with.

When therapy dogs go on assignments, very often they encounter a patient’s own dog that is permitted to visit, or a service dog that may be in the facility or on the grounds, or the facility may even have their own animals living there (birds, rabbits, etc.) Thus the dogs must always be calm and understand it is not the time to interact with the other animals.

 

Kirby and Benny love cuddling up with a client together

Kirby and Benny love cuddling up with a client together

Also many therapy teams work together so often there are multiple dogs in a very small space working side by side. A dog cannot be reactive in any way to a dog he is meeting for the first time or look to play with a dog he has grown to know.

So to answer the question: “My dog doesn’t like other dogs but loves people – can he be a therapy dog?” Not a Delta Pet Partner therapy dog.

But of course keep in mind, with proper positive training, a dog that was once negative and reactive to other animals can become a wonderful therapy dog … if they pass the Neutral Dog element of the evaluation and display positive, calm behaviors.