Therapy Dog Training: The Dos And Don’ts

Therapy dogs are a wonderful resource for people who need some extra affection, and therapy dog training programs can help you get your pup ready for the job. 

But there are also things that you can do to ensure that your dog has a great experience and enjoys being part of the program. 

Follow these dos and don’ts of therapy dog training so that your pup becomes the best version of themselves!

What Makes a Good Therapy Dog
Therapy dog training can provide comfort and support to people in various settings, including hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.
Specialized training is necessary to help prepare dogs for the unique challenges of working as therapy animals.
Positive reinforcement techniques are commonly used in therapy dog training to encourage good behavior.
Socialization is an important component of therapy dog training to ensure that animals are comfortable in new environments.
Training requirements can vary depending on factors such as the dog’s age, breed, and temperament.
Dogs that are aggressive, anxious, or easily distracted may not be suitable for therapy work.
Therapy dog training can provide a sense of fulfillment for both the dog and its owner.
The use of therapy dogs in schools is a growing trend, but educators and trainers should be aware of important considerations and best practices.

Do Keep Your Dog Healthy

Vaccinate your dog. It’s always a good idea to have your pet vaccinated against the common diseases of your area. This is especially important for puppies and dogs who are going to be around other animals, who could pass on viruses or bacteria to them.

Keep an eye out for fleas and ticks. When walking with your therapy dog, it’s likely that you will be near other dogs or people who have their own pets—and those other pets may not be as healthy as yours! 

Make sure to keep an eye out for flea/tick infestations in both yourself as well as your dog(s) by checking every day before heading out on walks and after coming back home from walks, respectively.

Monitor what they eat! While many dogs like treats (and we don’t want them turning up their nose at our special treats), too many extra calories can lead to obesity which can cause health problems later in life if left unchecked…plus let’s not forget about table scraps either!

Every dog deserves nutrition just like us humans do.”

Whether you are new to therapy dog training or have some experience, our ultimate guide to training your therapy dog provides valuable insights on how to get started, the benefits of this type of training, and the unique challenges of helping dogs become effective therapy animals.

Don’t Skip Out On Training

Training your dog is a great way to bond with them, and it also helps you become a better pet parent. So don’t let yourself skip out on this important part of being a responsible dog owner.

Do Establish A Routine

Establishing a routine will help both you and your dog. Set up a schedule for feeding, exercise, grooming and other necessities. 

This will give your dog an idea of what to expect day-to-day and make caring for him or her that much easier. It also helps you anticipate the needs of your pet so that everything stays on track—and you don’t end up cleaning up an accident when it’s time for bed!

Feeding Time2-3 timesProvide nutritious meals to maintain dog’s health
ExerciseDailyRegular exercise to keep the dog physically fit
Potty BreaksEvery few hoursTake the dog outside for bathroom breaks
Training SessionsTwice weeklyTraining to improve obedience and behavior
GroomingWeeklyMaintain physical cleanliness and health

Note: Establishing a routine is important for maintaining the well-being of therapy dogs. By setting a regular schedule for feeding, exercise, potty breaks, training, and grooming, dogs are able to thrive and better serve their communities.

Don’t Lose Your Patience

Remember, it’s a training program. The purpose of this course is to help you and your dog learn how to work together more effectively and efficiently. 

So don’t get frustrated if your dog doesn’t catch on right away; instead, keep at it and try out different techniques until you find what works best for both of you.

Be patient as well when training your therapy dog! If there’s something specific you want him or her to do, don’t expect immediate results give the command several times before moving on to another task. And remember: dogs are not humans, so don’t expect them to have the same thought process as us!

If your pooch seems bored with the whole process (or just wants nothing more than his belly rubbed), take a break and come back later when he or she is feeling recharged!

As with any form of dog training, there are many mistakes that can be made when working with therapy dogs. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these pitfalls. Check out our 15 common mistakes to avoid when training a therapy dog to learn more about how to make sure your canine partner is ready for service.

Do Get Plenty Of Sleep

How much? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults get seven to nine hours each night, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule. 

Your body will let you know how much sleep it needs by how well you feel during the day, especially if you’re having issues with memory or concentration. 

If neither one of these are an issue for you and your doctor has given the green light that there aren’t any underlying causes like depression or anxiety at play, then I recommend making sure to get at least seven hours a night to keep both yourself and your dog happy!

How? By doing some simple things: going to bed at the same time every night (even weekends), avoiding caffeine after noon (or at least 6pm), and making sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible so that melatonin levels remain high through the night (a blackout curtain is great). 

If possible try using ear plugs or white noise machines so that outside noises don’t disrupt your slumber cycle either – this might help both humans AND dogs get more shut eye!

Importance of Getting Enough Sleep

Improved cognitive functionIncreased risk of accidents
Increased productivityWeakened immune system
Lower stress and anxiety levelsIncreased risk of obesity
Better physical healthHigher risk of heart disease
Improved mental healthHigher risk of depression
Enhanced memory consolidationIncreased risk of diabetes

Recommended Amount of Sleep by Age

Age GroupRecommended Sleep Duration
Newborns (0-3 months)14-17 hours per day
Infants (4-11 months)12-15 hours per day
Toddlers (1-2 years)11-14 hours per day
Preschoolers (3-5 years)10-13 hours per day
School-age children (6-13 years)9-11 hours per day
Teenagers (14-17 years)8-10 hours per day
Adults (18-64 years)7-9 hours per day
Older Adults (65+ years)7-8 hours per day

Getting adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining good health and well-being. Lack of sleep can lead to various problems, including impaired cognitive function, weakened immune system, and higher risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

It is recommended that individuals get the appropriate amount of sleep for their age group to optimize health and avoid potential risks.

Don’t Overexert Your Dog

It’s important to always keep in mind that therapy dogs are working and should be given breaks between sessions. 

You should also make sure they’re not becoming too tired or overheated before or during a training session. If you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s time to call it quits:

  • Panting/Heavy breathing/Difficulty catching breath
  • Extreme drooling or excessive panting (more than usual)
  • Disorientation (not able to focus on what you’re saying, stumbling around)

Do Get Outside For Exercise And Exploring.

Dogs need to be exercised. They’re not just a couch potato, they’re an athlete waiting to happen!

Exercise is good for their health and helps them burn off extra energy so they don’t get bored or destructive in the house. You can take your dog out on a walk, run, hike or bike ride as often as you like (depending on the breed).

No matter how smart or well-trained a dog is, without proper socialization, it can be difficult for them to perform the tasks required in therapy dog settings. Learn about the importance of socialization in therapy dog training and how to properly socialize your dog for this important work.

Don’t Forget About Socialization

Socialization is a vital part of your dog’s training, and if you’re not already doing this with your pup, it’s something you should be thinking about. A well-socialized dog will be comfortable and confident in social situations. 

This can range from playing with other dogs to visiting the vet, so make sure that your dog is exposed to different people, places and animals whenever possible.

The best way to socialize your dog is through playtime! Make sure that when you’re playing with another pet owner or their pup (you may want to do this at a park or beach), that everyone has their leashes on their pets so they don’t run off by themselves.

You could also try taking them into the vet for some routine procedures such as nail clipping or having their teeth brushed these may seem scary at first but over time will become second nature for both of you!

Benefits of Socialization
Helps dogs become accustomed to new environments
Encourages positive interactions with people and other animals
Builds confidence and trust
Reduces fear and anxiety
Improves obedience skills
Facilitates effective communication with handlers
Promotes overall well-being and happiness

Socialization is a crucial component of therapy dog training, as it helps dogs become comfortable and confident in new environments and around different people and animals. Proper socialization can also help reduce anxiety, improve obedience skills, and facilitate effective communication between dogs and their handlers.

By prioritizing socialization in therapy dog training, programs can ensure that their animals are well-prepared to serve their communities and provide comfort and support to those in need.

Do Be Patient With The Process

Patience is a virtue, and it takes patience to train a dog. If you’re not a patient person, therapy dog training will be difficult for you. However, there are ways to develop your patience skills:

Practice meditation. Meditation is an excellent way to learn how to be more patient with yourself and others. 

You can also try practicing mindfulness (a form of meditation) by focusing on the present moment instead of worrying about past or future events, or being overly critical about yourself or other people’s actions.

Read books about zen-like philosophies like Buddhism or Taoism that emphasize acceptance rather than judgment as paths toward peace in life.

Talk with other people who have successfully overcome their own challenges with patience so that they can give advice based on their experiences!

When to start training your therapy dog is a question that many people have when they are considering this type of training. In our expert advice guide, we provide recommendations on when to start, what to focus on in early training, and how to work with your dog to ensure success.

Don’t Forget The Little Things That Make Your Dog Unique

When you’re preparing for a therapy dog training session, there are a few things that you should never forget to bring along. 

As a rule of thumb, your dog’s favorite toy, blanket (or any other favorite item), food and water bowls, crate or carrier and a leash with collar are all must-haves. 

One thing that is especially important for those new to therapy dog training is first aid supplies such as gauze pads and bandages. 

You can also pack an emergency phone number list in case something happens while on the road. 

Finally, consider bringing along grooming tools such as brushes or nail clippers if they’re needed during the journey.

One of the most important components of therapy dog training is positive reinforcement. Our guide on the roles of positive reinforcement in therapy dog training explains the different ways positive reinforcement can be used to encourage good behavior, and how to incorporate it into the training process.


The most important thing to remember when training your dog is that it’s a process. You won’t see huge results right away, but they will come with dedication and patience. 

If you keep your expectations realistic and stay consistent, then you will be on the path towards success!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to learn more about therapy dog training:

Therapy Dog Training Explained: A comprehensive guide to understanding the different types of therapy dogs, what training is required, and how to become a registered therapy dog team.

Therapy Dog Training: Everything You Need to Know: This article covers everything from what therapy dogs do to how to train a dog for therapy work, as well as information on how to become certified.

Using Therapy Dogs in Schools: 8 Dos and Don’ts: A helpful article on the use of therapy dogs in schools, including important considerations for educators and trainers.


What is therapy dog training?

Therapy dog training involves teaching dogs how to provide comfort and support to people in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and more.

Do therapy dogs go through special training?

Yes, therapy dogs go through specialized training to help prepare them for the unique challenges of working in various therapy settings. This can involve learning specific behaviors and commands, as well as getting comfortable around new people and environments.

How long does it take to train a therapy dog?

The length of time it takes to train a therapy dog can vary depending on factors such as the dog’s age, breed, and temperament, as well as the type of training involved. Some dogs may be ready to begin working in as little as a few months, while others may need more extensive training over the course of a year or more.

What are the benefits of therapy dog training?

Training a dog for therapy work can have a number of benefits, including improving the dog’s obedience and socialization skills, providing a sense of purpose and fulfillment for the dog and its owner, and bringing comfort and joy to the people the dog works with.

Is therapy dog training right for every dog?

Not every dog is suited for therapy work. Dogs that are aggressive, anxious, or easily distracted may not be a good fit. Additionally, certain breeds may have a harder time adapting to the demands of therapy work. However, with proper training and guidance, many dogs can become successful therapy animals.