There is a big difference between a therapy dog and a service dog. A service dog will help the blind or disabled to do things that they can't do alone. But a therapy dog is one to help lift the spirits of those in hospitals, assisted living facilities, mental health facilities and a variety of other places.
A variety of different dog breeds that have mild temperaments can be used and if you think you might be interested in doing something like this, you will need to know a few things before you get started.
First off, you need to find the right dog. You can do this by getting in touch with groups in your area that provide this kind of service for people and they may be able to give you tips on raising this kind of dog and where to find a dog that you can not only learn to do this but to also one you can love and bond with.
You can also go to your local shelter, a pet store or even a breeder to find the kind of dog you feel you could work with and would be ideal for this kind of rewarding work. The dog you choose you must be able to bond with and generally that bonding begins the moment you meet the right dog.
You need to pick a dog that has a calm demeanor, is extremely friendly and shows a huge interest in people and everything that surrounds him. A dog that is sleepy acting, isn't very active is really not going to be a very good dog for therapy. This kind of attitude may make a patient feel like they are being rejected by the dog.
Sometimes it's best to get an older dog and a mixed breed. You don't have to raise your therapy from a pup. As for mixed breeds, they seem to have better temperaments than some of the pure dog breeds available. If the dog you pick shows signs of being very good with kids and strangers, half of your work is already done.
Once you have found the right dog for you, you need to immediately begin to socialize him. You should take him to a dog park, take him on a leash and walk him all over your neighborhood and first begin to introduce him to all the kids in the area. Take him to a variety of different places so that he can get use to all kinds of different sounds, smells, and people.
You will then need to teach him all the basic commands if he does not already know them. Your therapy dog must obey the commands of sit, lie down, come and stay. He must know these perfectly and be able to perform the commands the very first time you tell him to do them.
Make sure that your dog has all of his shots and is in good health. You will need to have this documented if you are going to take your dog to a hospital of any kind because they may ask physical proof of this before they let you in their facility.
Once you have him trained and you are set to make therapy visits, make sure that you keep your dog well groomed and bathed at all times so that he does not carry any kind of diseases with him that might be harmful to those you are going to visit.