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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Im picking up my new pup in tuesday. The breeder stated that she has many past pups that became therapy dogs. My mother currently works in a hospital that has a few therapy dogs come in to visit the patients.

So im thinking about training my dog to become a theapy dog. Some general questions i have are, what channels does one ho through to register a dog as a therapy dog, what age muat a dog be, doea it have to go through special training or just be able to past tests. And any other advice would be appreciated.

Thanks
 

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Hello! Congrats on your new pup! I do therapy work with my dogs and we love it!

You need to get registered with an organization that certifies therapy dogs. To do that, you must pass their tests. The tests and minimum ages vary depending on organization but are typically basic obedience and temperament tests. We work with the Delta Dogs and Therapy Dogs International curriculums and I really like both of these organizations. Here's the link to the TDI test requirements!
There is no minimum age to start training your puppy! All programs require basic obedience, so work on building that strong foundation while you find an organization near you that you like! :)
 

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My dog and I are certified through Therapy Dog International as well. Certainly start your dog in obedience as early as you can. A dog has to be at least a year old in order to take the TDI test, but that doesn't mean you can't start working on the basics well before that. You don't have to take any special classes to take the TDI test, but if there's a class geared toward that test--or the test of whichever therapy group you decide to join--you might consider taking it. Not every chapter of every organization has a class, but the local TDI chapter here did: four weeks, one evening a week, for $20 total. My dog had his basic obedience commands already, but it was helpful to practice the things that therapy dogs need to do that aren't covered by a basic obedience class--like being around wheelchairs, walkers, ignoring kids rushing around playing, staying with a friendly stranger while you leave the room etc. Also, the last evening of class was a practice test that was really helpful and made the actual test less nerve-wracking. Oh, and be aware that if you and your dog don't pass the test the first time, you can always retest. I know dogs/handlers who've tested multiple times, simply because of one exercise on the test that gave a particular team problems.

If you are specifically interested in doing therapy work in a place that already has therapy dogs visiting that facility (like the hospital where your mom works), check to see with which organization those dog/handler teams are affiliated. Therapy organizations try to be respectful of each other's territories for the most part, so if one group already is visiting in a particular location, other groups don't. In my area, that isn't much of a problem because TDI is kind of the only game in town and because it's well-known, it tends to be the group that's contacted if a facility is interested in pet therapy. For instance, because we're already at two colleges in town, a tech school called us for therapy visits too.

Also, you didn't mention how old you were, but if you're under eighteen, check and see which organizations have a junior handler program and what it involves. If you're interested in earning AKC titles in therapy, also check to see if which organizations are approved by the AKC (there are quite a number of them). The AKC also automatically grants dogs that pass the TDI test the CGC and CGCA; they may very well do that for other therapy organizations too, so you could look into that as well. I didn't bother, as I knew I was going to go through TDI for therapy work because it was my only reasonable local option. You, however, may live in an area where you have multiple options.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replys. Im 25 so the junior is out and idk if this matters. But my pup is a shiloh shepherd which isnt currently recognized by the AKC
 

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Actually, the fact that you're over 18 probably makes it easier--if you were a junior handler with TDI, you'd have to have an adult with you. I've worked with a good junior handler a couple of times, but I imagine it's not all that fascinating for her mom to have to be there for her.

The fact that your dog's breed is not currently recognized by the AKC is completely irrelevant. My dog is registered with the AKC--for the sake of earning therapy titles--as an "All American," which means he's a mix. He was a stray I got at a humane society, so they didn't know what he was either, though I've heard some entertaining guesses (he's the dog in my avatar). The AKC now allows mixes/unrecognized breeds to earn titles in obedience, rally, agility, and therapy work. The only thing they can't do is compete in conformation, for obvious reasons. TDI doesn't care if your dog is a mix either, and I would imagine the same is true for the other therapy groups as well. Therapy work is all about the dog's temperament/obedience skills--the breed doesn't really matter that much. We tested in a group of four that included a Great Dane, an Airedale, a Cairn, and my mix and we all passed. The pack visit I do regularly typically includes a Swiss Bernese Mountain dog, a Golden Retriever, a Border Collie, a Cocker Spaniel/St. Bernard Cross, and my All American--but from time to time, we've been joined by a Collie, a pair of Shelties, and a Havanese. At the largest pack event of the year a week or so ago, we had everything from the Berner to a toy poodle, including some mixes. It really isn't an issue of size or breed at all.
 
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