Therapy Dog Training Certification
Therapy dogs are different than service or support dogs, who are trained to perform tasks for disabled people and are considered working animals, not pets. Over that past three decades, there have been vast improvements in the profession of therapy dogs. Therapy dog training provides educational material to volunteers, screens dogs and handlers, and provides liability insurance when the dog and handler are volunteering in a therapy setting.
What is Therapy Dog Training?
A therapy dog is trained to provide warmth, compassion, and love to a wide variety of people, typically in facility settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living, schools, hospice, libraries, shelters, and physical therapy centers. Therapy dog training enables owners to use their dogs’ ability to love and soothe by training them to become therapy teams. These household pets make visits with their owner to reach beyond traditional forms of therapeutic healing and treatment.
Key Skills Needed for a Therapy Dog Trainer?
Reciprocal learning and teaching skills are essential for a therapy dog trainer to deliver highly efficient services and be successful in the field. These skills include sharp attending and observation skills, the ability to communicate clearly, expertise, responsiveness, and demonstrated courteous behavior.
What is Therapy Dog Training Certification?
Currently, there is no state or federally recognized certification for therapy dog training. However, many trainers and service dog schools provide internships to help train new handlers. These training programs certify that you have mastered the training course and met the school's requirements. If you choose to attend a dog training school, make that the program meets your needs before enrolling.
The Best Schools to Get Dog Training Certifications?
The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a therapy dog training program where trainers teach dogs to go with their owners to volunteer in hospitals, schools and nursing homes. The following schools are also ideal for obtaining dog training certifications:
- Karen Pryor Academy
- Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT)
- Animal Behavior College
- PAWS Training Academy
A good training program will cover animal learning, dog behavior, and a complete history of dog training, and practical, hands-on experience working with a variety of different dogs.
Can you Get a Degree in Therapy Dog Training?
Obtaining a degree in behavioral psychology, veterinary sciences, and ethology is particularly beneficial for therapy dog trainers. At this time, there are no formal degrees offered in dog training at any major universities across the country. The Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas offers animal behavior modification courses for undergraduate and graduate student. Students gain hands-on experience through positive reinforcement shaping by volunteering at animal shelters and zoos.
Do you have to become a professional dog trainer before becoming a therapy dog trainer?
While you do not have to become a professional dog trainer first, understanding the basics of animal behavior science is an essential part of the training technique.
How Much Do They Make?
The average wage for therapy dog trainers is $20 an hour. However, some master trainers charge $150 an hour, particularly those with expertise and an established reputation.
What Are the Benefits?
There are many benefits of being a therapy dog trainer. Working with dogs and their handler is tremendously rewarding. You get back more than you give when you see the love and joy that the therapy dog brings to others. Knowing that the handlers and their dogs go out into the world as a team and share compassion with thousands of people every year provides a sense of fulfillment and gratification.
Who Hires Therapy Dog Trainers?
Many therapy dog trainers work for a small business, often owned by a lead teacher, or are self-employed. Other pet-related businesses hire therapy dog trainers, such as groomers, animal shelters, pet stores, and veterinarians. Local city recreation departments, police departments, 4H clubs, or other neighborhood groups will hire therapy dog trainers as well.
How Can I Certify My Pet to be a Therapy Dog?
Therapy dogs love attention and socializing. They enjoy traveling to new places, are unresponsive to loud noises and visual distraction, and non-reactive to other animals. They are dependable, controllable, and predictable. If you’re curious about how to certify your pet as a therapy dog, here are some tips to get you started:
- Find a reputable therapy dog training organization. Look for an animal-assisted therapy organization in your state that offers a training program.
- Request an evaluation and take a training course. An experienced therapy dog trainer will evaluate you with your dog as a team and recommend relevant training courses based on positive reinforcement and reward-based techniques.
- Volunteer. After you and your dog obtain certification from a therapy dog organization, search for volunteer opportunities in your area.
If you enjoy working with dogs and helping handlers share their dog's joy and love with others, therapy dog training may be the ideal career for you.