Could your pup be a therapy dog?

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Could your pup be a therapy dog?

Could your pup be a therapy dog? These steps will help you figure out whether or not she has what it takes.

1. Consider your dog’s personality. A fearful or aggressive dog is not a good candidate. A therapy dog must enjoy meeting strangers and be able to tolerate different people and animals, noises and surroundings.

2. Choose a venue to suit your dog’s personality. A seniors’ home, prison, children’s shelter, or psychiatric ward all present different situations. One dog may dislike the lack of contact in a convalescent home; another might be over-stimulated by active kids.

3. Enroll in good obedience training. Use gentle, positive reinforcement to teach the dog to come, sit, stay and lie down. He must be housebroken and have good manners – no jumping, sniffing, barking, licking or growling. Teach him not to pull on the leash.

4. Condition your dog to stimulating new environments. Walk him in public places and take him to outdoor events such as parades or carnivals so he gets accustomed to unusual noises and crowds. Take him to a dog park to teach him to play well with others.

Therapeutic Paws of Canada is a non-profit organization of volunteers providing animal resources for human needs through regular visits to hospitals, residences, schools, etc. Over 500 volunteers across Canada provide pet therapy visits to retirement and nursing homes, hospitals and more.

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Mark Grant has been involved with dogs for decades as an owner, exhibitor and writer. He is President of the Saint Bernard Fanciers of Canada and the Halifax Kennel Club and is a member of the Canadian Kennel Club. He joined Therapeutic Paws of Canada after seeing the difference therapy dogs made in his grandfather's nursing home, and is now the Director of Team Leaders for the organization. Mark resides in Bedford, Nova Scotia with his two Saint Bernards, Roc and Coal — both TPOC Certified Therapy Dogs.