WHAT MAKES A GOOD THERAPY DOG?
People often think that they should pick our potential therapy dogs from a certain breed, after which they will be evaluated by the extent of their advanced training. Nothing could be further from the truth. Temperament is by far the most important factor. (Remember the old real estate cliche, “location, location, location”? Well, in therapy work it’s “temperament, temperament, temperament”—because nothing, absolutely nothing, will take its place.) We have seen benevolent Pit Bulls, serene German Shepherds, and calm outgoing Jack Russells among the many exceptions to what one might expect. Repeat: it's the individual dog's temperament that matters. Training is secondary, and breed is usually irrelevant.
When you think of a "typical" therapy dog, you may picture one like Buddy, below at left, a Labrador Retriever who served the Charleston/Summerville area for many years. He was everything a therapy dog should be: gentle, friendly, and well-behaved. It's important to realize, though, that good therapy dogs are not all alike! They come in all sizes, all breeds, and yes, a range of different personalities. Some come from show backgrounds, some from shelters. There is a niche for each one.