I first introduced you to my four-legged sidekick, Enzo, a few months ago, and I thought it was time to update you on what we’ve been up to. In between working out with me, running errands, helping in the kitchen, and napping, Enzo has been training to be a therapy dog.
Right from the start, we knew Enzo’s kind, gentle disposition was a good foundation for becoming a therapy dog. With Enzo, we wanted to get him certified so he could volunteer and work his special doggie magic in places like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. (It’s important to note that therapy dogs are not service dogs, who are specially trained to assist persons with disabilities.)
If you’re interested in certifying your dog, the first step is to get the all-clear from your veterinarian. Generally speaking, your dog should have a calm, accommodating temperament and respond to basic obedience cues (i.e. sit, down, heel, stay, drop). I’ve worked with a dog trainer since I got Enzo and he’s got all of this stuff down pat, but it’s still a good idea to take an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen class, which is often a prerequisite for therapy-dog programs. (Pro tip: The American Kennel Club online is a great resource for how to go about getting your pet certified.) A few reputable, AKC-approved organizations who offer training include the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Pet Partners, and Love on a Leash.
I’ll keep you updated on Enzo’s progress. And if you have a dog who’s training to be a therapy or service dog, tweet me at @michaelstrahan.