Animal-assisted therapy methods are in vogue and in many cases enable excellent treatment progress. Patients can benefit in various areas from four-legged helpers such as therapy dogs and, for example, work together with a team of people and animals in psychotherapy and physiotherapy.
However, before the time can come and a four-legged friend can be used on the patient, training as a therapy dog is required. Below you will find out which breeds are particularly suitable as therapy dogs, how long the training takes, and how high the costs are.
- The training to become a therapy dog can vary depending on the provider in terms of duration, costs, and entry requirements.
- As a rule, the dog and owner must first pass an aptitude test in order to be allowed to take part in the course.
- In the practical part of the training, the prospective therapy dog also learns from a fully trained conspecific.
- In a final test, the dog and owner must show that they have mastered everything important.
- The costs of training the therapy dog can, under certain circumstances, be claimed as a business expense.
Not all animals are suitable for therapy dog training
In principle, any breed of dog can be trained to be a therapy dog. This applies to both very small and very large animals. How tall the prospective therapy assistant should ideally be depended primarily on the later location.
Apart from that, however, it is necessary that the four-legged friend is resilient, has a strong personality, and is patient. A low stimulus threshold is just as undesirable as any existing potential for aggression. In addition, a close bond with its owner and a pronounced willingness to learn help the animal to cope well during training and later in the work as a therapy dog.
The following breeds usually bring the required characteristics with them and are therefore particularly popular for training as therapy dogs:
- Golden retriever;
- Labrador Retrievers;
- German shepherd dog;
- Border collie.
Therapy dog training can vary
Since there are currently no legal requirements for the training of therapy dogs, the training content and the entry requirements often differ quite significantly. Some training providers only provide a few weekend courses for therapy dog training, while others estimate a considerably longer training period.
The minimum age that the dog must be at the start of training also differs. In some cases, puppies as young as 12 weeks can participate. In other cases, however, the four-legged friend must be at least two years old.
While it may be tempting to train your dog to be a therapy dog with a weekend seminar, realize that proper training takes time. We, therefore, recommend that you give preference to a provider with an extensive training course.
Training costs for therapy dogs
As varied as the duration and content of training to become a therapy dog are, the expected costs can also vary. For a comprehensive course, you usually have to reckon with costs of between 1,500 and 2,000 euros. The fees for the obligatory aptitude test and the final exam are normally already included in this.
If you want to use your therapy dog at work after the training, the training costs are normal business expenses, which you can usually fully claim for tax purposes.
A test is mandatory before training as a therapy dog
Reputable providers only train dogs to become therapy dogs if they have proven their suitability in a test beforehand. In this way, it is ensured that the animal is generally suitable for work as a therapy assistant and that there are no problems with its character or health.
If deficits are found during the aptitude test, there is a high probability that you and your dog will not be allowed to participate in therapy dog training.
Theoretical and practical training as a therapy dog team
The training of the therapy dog is of course not only limited to your four-legged friend but also includes you. After all, you and the prospective therapy dog should work together in the future and function as a team.
For this reason, of course, a theoretical part, in which you are taught the necessary basics for dealing with your dog, is part of the training. In the practical part of the training, both you and your dog will learn what is important in the daily work as a therapy dog team.
So that your four-legged friend quickly internalizes relevant behaviors, it is advisable to accompany and support the training to become a therapy dog with private exercises.
At the end of the course, you and your dog have to prove yourself in a test and show that you function as a therapy dog team.
Human and animal teachers training to become therapy dogs
When training therapy dogs, it is common for a trained dog to be used in addition to an experienced dog trainer. This form of training is called handing down and has the great advantage that the four-legged friend can copy and adopt important behaviors directly from a conspecific.