I think this is a very good question. Senior dogs are usually much gentler in demeanor which can make them an ideal candidate for a therapy dog. However, it is best to make sure that you have addressed any underlying issues with your dog before working toward certification. For instance, dogs that have arthritis can be somewhat protective and can have difficulty getting around the therapy wards. If you anticipate working with children please keep in mind that dogs in pain can be more guarded and protective – something to keep in mind if a small child were to accidentally injure them. The other thing to take into consideration is if your dog has any cognitive issues like Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. CDS can aggravate dogs that have issues adapting to new environments as major changes can be difficult for a dog with cognitive issues.

Once you have cleared your dog of any medical issues, you can then start to move forward with the steps and procedures to become a certified therapy dog. There are different classifications of therapy dogs and it varies depending on the state so definitely do your research. In most cases it’s recommended that they pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test. That is usually the best place to start and then you can speak with the facilities where you want to do therapy and determine what specific training that your dog might require!

-Dr. B