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Questions answered with yellow writing are from Volunteering With Your Pet by Mary R. Burch.
--Must the dog have innate abilities?
No! With the proper training techniques dogs can learn to exhibit certain behaviors required of them for therapy.
--Where are common places for therapy dogs to work?
Nursing homes, hospice homes, hospitals, schools, prisons, detention centers, shelters, foster care, courtrooms
--Which dogs are better in the different settings?
Dogs with a lot of energy would work better in settings where they can run and fetch and play with people. An energetic dog would work well in a children's facility (maybe an in patient care facility) where the childen can run around with it. The calm, quiet dogs would work well in a nursing home or hospital settings where the patients are limited in mobility.
--Are different skills needed for different settings?
All therapy dogs must be respectful and cooperative, and responsive, but depending on the situation the dogs could be calm or energetic. (Read above.)
--Can bad behavior be corrected?
Yes! But even though dogs can be trained to do or not do certain things, it doesn't mean they will enjoy doing so. An energetic border collie can be taught to lay down for 20 minutes, but for a dog that needs to be constantly moving, it would not be fair to ask that of them. "Many dogs with behavior problems can become wonderful therapy animals if owners are willing to invest some rehabilitative time in the dog."
--Are all types of dogs capable of being therapy dogs?
Yes! Depending on the environment, some breeds may be better suited than others. Larger dogs are able to stand next to a hospital bed or sit next to a wheel chair, where as smaller dogs can sit on furniture and in laps. "A dog's breed does not matter; what does matter is the dog's behavior and characteristics as they relate to a specific setting." (Volunteering With Your Pet)
--What are common behavioral problems that must be addessed?
Problems related to socialization: too energetic, too shy
Inappropriate smellingInappropriate urinatingInappropriate eatingStealingBad behavior around other animals in facility (birds, fish, etc.)
--What are traits that are mandatory for therapy dogs to have?
Therapy dogs must be social, happy, calm, responsive, careful, and WELL TRAINED.
--What are traits that therapy dogs CANNOT have?
If a dog has ever had a history of biting, they should not be considered for therapy work. Even if a competent trainer can dispel such behavior, the history is enough to exempt the dog from therapy work.
--How do you correct specific behavioral problems?
Taking dogs for longer walks may help release the energy that goes into being a disturbance at home. Also taking the dog to the park will help it fill the social outlet that all dogs need to be happy and cooperative (dogs are social animals, they would be in a pack in the wild). Also positive-reinforcement training with treats teaches the dogs how to act properly.