Working as a volunteer with a therapy dog is highly rewarding, but it's often hard to find a way to get started. You could train a therapy dog on your own, but especially if you've never done such work before, it's best to work with an experienced therapy dog trainer.Such specialized dog training can be hard to find, but a systematic search may locate classes or someone offering private lessons. If no such thing is available in your city, consider starting a therapy dog group and bringing a trainer in from a neighboring town to help out.
Contact established therapy dog organizations to see if they offer training in your area. Some organizations, such as Pet Partners -- formerly called the Delta Society -- and The Good Dog Foundation, offer classes in many cities. Call their main offices or check on the organizations' websites for information on scheduled training sessions.
Ask therapy dog registration organizations such as Therapy Dogs International for recommendations on finding training classes. While such groups don’t offer training classes themselves, they may be able to put you in touch with someone in your area who does. Check the organization’s website or call its main office for help.
Ask owners of working therapy dogs about training. They might know of upcoming classes or suggest local trainers you can work with. If you don’t know anyone with a therapy dog, call local nursing homes, hospitals, hospices and veterinarians and ask if they know of any working therapy dogs in the area. Also check at pet shops and grooming parlors for leads.
Watch the classified ads in your newspaper for notices of therapy dog training classes. Talk to trainers of regular obedience classes and ask them if they know of anyone who is training therapy dogs. Enroll your dog in basic obedience or Canine Good Citizen classes as a first step in therapy dog training. The skills taught in those classes are a necessary foundation if your dog is to become a therapy dog.