The Labrador Retriever is consistently ranked as the most popular dog breed in America according to AKC registration statistics, and for good reason. Not only are these dogs absolutely beautiful and full of life but they are also highly intelligent and versatile when it comes to training. In fact, Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds to use as therapy dogs.
What do Therapy Dogs Do?
Therapy dogs perform many roles but their main job is to provide comfort to people in need. Dog perform therapy in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, mental institutions, and even special education schools – any place where the people living in those facilities might experience feelings of anxiety or depression. The presence of a soft, friendly dog like the Labrador Retriever is often enough to draw even the most sullen person out of his or her shell, providing a modicum of relief from whatever ails them for as long as the therapy dog is around. For many patients in hospitals and other facilities, the time they get to spend with a therapy dog is the highlight of their week and it gives them something to look forward to in the future.
Requirements to Become a Therapy Dog
In order to become a therapy dog, a dog must go through a lot of training – it is not enough to have a friendly personality and some basic obedience training. Therapy dogs undergo rigorous training and a great deal of socialization to ensure that they will be able to get along with all kinds of people – people who are sick, people in wheelchairs, people with disabilities, etc. A therapy dog must be able to interact calmly with strangers and he must be patient enough to allow a great deal of petting, and sometimes rough handling from people who do not know how to properly interact with a dog. Therapy dogs usually begin training at one year of age and they must complete a certification program in order to work as a therapy dog.
What Makes the Lab a Great Therapy Dog?
Now that you have a greater understanding of what it is that therapy dogs do, you can probably see how the Labrador Retriever fits so well into such a job. Labs are natural a people-oriented breed and they are not shy around strangers – they make friends with anyone and everyone. The Labrador Retriever is a confident and versatile breed, so these dogs adapt well to all kinds of situations without nervousness or aggression (especially when properly socialized). Another quality that makes Labs great therapy dogs is their eager to please attitude – they are always happy to spend time with people and they respond incredibly well to training.
If you are thinking about getting involved with therapy dog training or if you want a breed of dog that could potentially serve in such a capacity, the Labrador Retriever is definitely one to consider. These dogs are some of the friendliest, most people-oriented dogs you will ever meet. What more could you ask for?
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