Dogs and hoo-mans have been working together in partnership for thousands of years, dating back to when the first domesticated dogs helped us hunt and protected our homes.
Today, that deep bond still rings true, with over 500,000 service dogs employed throughout the US.
At the core of many service dogs, is the therapy dog.
The best therapy dog breeds are easily seen in the popularity of all breeds across the US.
By Adeline Ee.
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Despite the extensive training that therapy dogs receive and the benefits they provide, they are not considered service animals under the American Disability Act (ADA) and do not have the same legal rights as service dogs.
Top Therapy Dog Breeds
While there are exceptions to every rule, every breed has a certain disposition that is genetically ingrained in its DNA.
Here are some of the top breeds that are typically excellent choices for therapy work.
Right on top of the list is America’s favorite dog, the Lab. These happy-go-lucky, love-the-world dogs will sooner welcome a burglar into their home than snap at one.
Their medium to large size makes them perfect for hugging, but care must be taken to have a therapy Lab know not to jump up, which they too, love to do.
Just like their Lab cousins, their heart-melting eyes and floppy ears are usually a big hit with patients.
They are extremely gentle with kids and will be suitable for all kinds of therapy work. However, their longer coats do shed more, so people with allergies might react around a Golden. Read about training them on Digdoggy.com.
Intelligent and adaptable, the Poodle is an ideal choice for people with allergies.
Their hypoallergenic coat sheds very little fur and dander and they can be a safe choice if you’re worried about triggering allergic reactions.
This adorable little fluff ball is small enough to fit on a lap and has slightly higher energy levels.
They tend to like exploring new surroundings, and folks have a lot of fun watching their antics.
Pugs is another lapdog that loves to be cuddled and touched, making them an excellent choice for kids and adults alike.
They are small and will fit comfortably on a lap, and playful, easily entertaining the kids.
Another little one, the Maltese is a calm, affectionate bundle of joy that wants nothing more than to curl up in your lap and get petted.
Their long coats make for therapeutic grooming sessions for kids and patients, and they love being the center of attention!
The ultimate working dog, German Shepherds can be trained to do anything.
Their large size and imposing stature make them ideal for therapy work that involves a patient leaning on them for support, or for helping with mobility issues.
Despite their intimidating appearance, a well-trained German Shepherds is infinitely patient, calm, and gentle.
However, their vibrant personality and high exercise needs are not for everyone!
A German Shepherd is a way more challenging breed to raise, as compared to say, a Golden Retriever.
What Is Therapy Dog Training Like?
Therapy dog training is an intensive process that requires a great deal of time and dedication from both the handler and the dog.
The first step in this training is typically establishing a strong bond between the trainer and the dog.
That involves lots of exercises to build trust and mutual respect.
Once this bond has been formed, the trainer will begin working on specific skills that are required for therapy work.
That’s including basic obedience cues like sit, stay, and come as well as more complex skills like walking calmly through crowds or approaching people without getting overly excited.
Throughout this process, both the handler and the dog must maintain a positive attitude and always be willing to learn new things.
Ultimately, it takes a lot of hard work but also plenty of fun to become a successful therapy dog team.
What Makes A Good Therapy Dog?
Like humans, all dogs have personalities. Here are some of the qualities that make up the ideal therapy dog. Does your dog have what it takes?
They Have To Be Friendly
Therapy dogs should be loving and affectionate, never aloof or impatient.
They Are Sensitive
They should be sensitive to the needs of patients and know exactly what is required.
They Must Be Calm All The Time
A good therapy dog must have had excessive socialization and be completely desensitized to external stimuli.
You wouldn’t want a boisterous dog jumping on a convalescent or getting anxious around loud noises!
They Have Stable Temperaments
Never impatient or moody, therapy dogs are often happy-go-lucky all the time.
They Are Obedient
Needless to say, any working dog has to be able to take commands.
They Can Be Kept Clean
Therapy dogs often get deployed into sterile environments like hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
While they don’t have to be hypoallergenic like Poodles are, low-shedding and minimal drooling are good traits to have.
They Love Affection and Attention
A therapy dog will get loads of affection!
They should enjoy attention tremendously, even from strangers.
Aloof dogs that get bored with excessive affection and simply walk off wouldn’t make good therapy dogs.
There’s nothing like affectionate from a dog to make all your worries disappear. It is scientifically proven that having a pet reduces stress levels.
In my opinion, all dogs are therapy dogs!