Can Small breeds be Therapy dogs?

The Service and Therapy Dog forum is for all service and therapy dogs regardless of whether or not their status is legally defined by federal or state law, how they are trained, or whether or not they are "certified." Posts questioning or disputing a person's need for a service or therapy dog, the validity of a person's service or therapy dog, or the dog's ability to do the work of a service or therapy dog are not permitted in this forum. Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times.

(Page 1 of 2: Viewing entries 1 to 10)  
Page Links: 1  2  
Yasha the- Russian Toy- Terrier

Barked: Fri Mar 17, '06 12:25pm PST 
Hello everyone!

I work in a hospital, and there is an old couple who bring around two silky Yorkies into the ICU. They are allowed in by our hospital, which is a Military hospital. I know that rules for non military hospitals may be different, that is why I am asking here. I give back to people with my job, and I would love Yasha to be able to give back too. However, first things first.

I have a few questions about therapy dogs:

1. Can a small breed be a therapy dog for a hospital or nursing home?
2. What kind of training would my pup need to go through?
3. What is the 'age' for training to begin for these special programs?
4. Can my puppy be assessed by a professional to see if he has the right temperment to become a therapy dog?
5. As a new dog owner, is it possible to do this training with a new puppy? I realize I need professional help, but am not sure how much help I would need!
6. What classes did your pup take? Do you recommend any books or programs?

Thanks so much!

Vote Jackie!
Barked: Fri Mar 17, '06 12:44pm PST 
I don't think there is a size requirement, but don't quote me on that. I'm going to train Jackie to be a therapy dog. She started puppy obedience at 4 months, then Basic 1, and is now in Basic 2 (she's 8 months now). After she completes Basic 2, we'll enroll in the class that trains for the CGC (Canine Good Citizen - AKC program) and TDI (Therapy Dogs International). I'm not sure if there is a specific age to start training, but I know that TDI will not certify dogs under 1 year old. Hope that helps.

To Know Me is to- Love Me
Barked: Fri Mar 17, '06 12:58pm PST 
I don't think there is a size restriction either. A dog in my training class is a bichon frise (and they're teeny!) She is training to be a therapy dog. Also there is a cute little maltese in my class who is training to be a therapy dog.

Julian Hale- J. of Grnd- Havn

Everybody loves- Julian
Barked: Fri Mar 17, '06 5:27pm PST 
Hi Yasha,
There is no dog too big or small. We had a tiny Yorkie go through AAA/AAT training with us. I can tell you our experience. First we found a Therapy Dog group we were interested in joining. They happened to train at the Humane Society. This is West Michigan Therapy Dogs if you want to look them up.
There is Therapy Dog Inc. and Delta Society as well as others that don't come to mind.
You and your dog go through some specific training.
But first you will need to have some fairly basic obedience to start. Sit, stay, down, accept a friendly stranger and I think a recall. These are part of what is known as Canine Good Citizen or CGC. If you can do these you can start with the rest of the training
Both of you learn how to touch people gentley and ,properly. The dogs are introduced to different smells, loud noises, odd behaviours from people, being touched.
And lots of other things too.
We found it to be very rewarding. Julian would come home very tired from his work. He took it very seriously.
I tried a few different places to volunteer until I found places that Jules and I both liked the best. Paws For Reading at the local library was our favorite.
Best to you!
Julian and me -A.

Love me, adore- me!
Barked: Sat Mar 18, '06 7:14pm PST 
I've never heard of a size requirement. You can check out Delta Society or TDI for more details on their tests. Therapy dogs do have to be at least one year old. Basic obedience really helps. It's also a good idea to socialize your pup as much as possible, and expose him to a lot of different situations and people so that he'll be able to do a good job.

Edited by author Sat Mar 18, '06 7:27pm PST


Terrier MEANS I- love dirt!
Barked: Sun Mar 19, '06 4:29am PST 
I just got certified last month, and I am not small, but I am short!

Ginger DSA- ThD TT CGC - &hearts

My Angel
Barked: Sun Mar 19, '06 3:15pm PST 
They sure can! In my therapy dog group there are dogs of all sizes, from miniature Dachshunds and Shih Tzus to Great Danes!
Small dogs can have an advantage over larger breeds because they can be placed on the bed next to patients or be held by patients or by the dog's owner so the patients can interact with them. This can be very useful when someone is in a wheelchair and cannot lean down to interact with a dog...

As far as training, you can start training from a young puppy (or start with an adult if you get your dog as an adult) by working on socializing your puppy and getting them used to medical equipment and other things they might come in contact with. You can also work on obedience with a puppy to get them to be very obedient so they can pass the therapy dog testing. Tests usually require all basic obedience- sit, down, come, and stay plus more specific things for therapy work. You can find out more about therapy dog training, testing, and organization here:

Edited by author Sun Mar 19, '06 8:48pm PST

Yasha the- Russian Toy- Terrier

Barked: Sun Mar 19, '06 10:06pm PST 
That last link posted was extremely helpful!

Yasha is starting his beginning classes on Saturday for basic obedience. I think he is going to learn very well.

I'm learning that usually *I* am the one doing something wrong when it comes to training! I don't think like a dog enough yet. I am reading a ton of books, and for a while could not get my pup to go to the bathroom outside. For the longest time, he would just pop a squat and start to go. I would pick him up and take him outside and he would finish. If he went outside, he got lots of praise and a treat. HOWEVER.. I didn't realize that picking him up had confused him so much! After reading a book "Outwitting Dogs", I learned if I just call him over, he will eventually realize HE needs to go to the door to be let out. That same day I showed him to come to the door, no mistakes! I am so proud of him, and think he is very smart, its just me who needs the training!

Thanks bunches. The trainer evaluated his temperment roughly, and thought he would do very well. Only his progress in classes will tell that, though!

The best things- come in little- packages
Barked: Thu Mar 23, '06 8:18am PST 
Yasha - I'm reading a good book right now. Its called "Yorkie Doodle Dandy" and its a book about the first documented therapy dog - a 4 lb. yorkie who worked during WWII. Its a memoir, so its not about training or anything. I just thought you might find it interesting because the first documented therapy dog was a small breed, and since you work at a military hospital, I thought it might be especially interesting to you. I got my copy at Amazon.com, but here's a website about the book:
Mr. - Cinnamon Bun

Little Dogs- Think Big
Barked: Fri Mar 24, '06 10:16am PST 
Yasha and everybody - yes, small dogs CAN and ARE therapy dogs. Not only can they be therapy dogs, but there's a Chi on my message board who is a SERVICE dog - not to be confused with a therapy dog. Service dogs (while very much loved) are not pets, they are working dogs who help individuals on a day to day basis.

For more info - please check out this link:
  (Page 1 of 2: Viewing entries 1 to 10)  
Page Links: 1  2