Sunday, May 26, 2013

How To Find A Therapy Dog Trainer

With the number of people wanting to train Therapy Dogs on the rise, so is the increase in people claiming to be experts in training them.  It's not uncommon to see trainers adding Therapy Dog Classes to their roster.   As is true with any industry, there are always people trying to increase their income by offering popular services.  When looking for someone to help you train a Therapy Dog, credentials and experience are key. 

Find a trainer who is qualified to train Therapy Dogs
There is no shortage of obedience trainers but finding a trainer who is qualified in Therapy Animal Training is very challenging.    There are nationally recognized programs that offer certification in Therapy Animal Training.  A Therapy Animal Trainer has a unique skill set and expertise in working with people and dogs in both Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy.   They should use humane reward based training methods and have a solid understanding of dog behavior.  There is a common misunderstanding that a CGC Tester(Canine Good Citizen) is a Therapy Dog Trainer/Tester.  A person offering a CGC Class/Test,  is endorsed by the AKC (American Kennel Club) not a Therapy Dog Organization.  While the CGC is a good gauge of a dogs basic obedience training and temperament, it is not a Therapy Dog Test.

Find a Trainer who has experience working their own Therapy Dogs
Most trainers have well behaved dogs, dogs who compete in sports, field trials, nose work, conformation, obedience or those who perform entertaining tricks.   All of these are great, but have nothing to do with taking your dog into a Hospital, your private practice or working with sick people.  When looking for a Therapy Dog Trainer you want to work with someone who has Registered Therapy Dogs who work in the community on a regular basis.  A Therapy Dog Trainer should have experience volunteering with their own dog and have experience working with a variety of facilities from Hospitals, Schools, Nursing Homes, etc.    An experienced Therapy Dog Trainer should be consulting with facilities in the community to establish programs and helping to refer or place qualified teams.

Find a legitimate Therapy Dog Organization for testing and registration
Be leary of trainers who have 'home grown programs' as they tend to be making up their own rules.  There are reputable National Therapy Dog Programs who require formal testing and in return offer insurance and legitimate documentation for working teams.  The standards for Therapy Dogs are high, as they should be, and working with a legitimate program is the only way to ensure your dog is appropriate for the job.  The article below gives great insight into the importance of proper selection for working Therapy Dogs.

Ask for references and/or credentials
Before you enroll in a Therapy Dog Training Program ask for recommendations from previous students.  It is also important to ask for references from the places your Instructor visits with their own dogs.  A Therapy Dog Trainers dog is their resume, you'll want to know what their reputation is at the places they visit. 

We have spent years developing our Therapy Dog Training Program.  We strive to set high standards for the teams who come through our program.   The teams who graduate from our program are working in all areas of Animal Assisted Therapy and Activities.   Our goal is not to MAKE every dog who trains with us into a Therapy Dog but rather to prepare them for testing with National Therapy Dog Programs.  This does not mean that every dog who trains with us becomes a Therapy Dog, not all dogs are suited for the job., in which case our job is to help people understand why Therapy Dog Work is not a good fit for their dog and to help them choose an activity they can both enjoy. 

To learn more about our program or to schedule a workshop, visit

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