Ways to Socialize Your Dog in Preparation for Therapy Work


TALES BLOG / Ways to Socialize Your Dog in Preparation for Therapy Work

Socializing your pup is always important, but if you have a goal of one day becoming a Hand in Paw Therapy Team, socialization will be a key skill to work on before evaluating. Why? Because an anxious, stressed, shy or aggressive pup does not make a good therapy animal.

During the Hand in Paw training process, our team looks for dogs that not only demonstrate basic obedience skills, but also present some of the following qualities:

  • Seeks & enjoys human interaction and meeting variety of new people
  • Accepts vigorous petting all over by crowds of people
  • Must be comfortable with moving equipment (like wheelchairs, walkers, or other unusual objects) and unexpected loud noises in a variety of environments
  • Should not be aggressive or show fear towards other animals or people


The great news is that with some practice, these are all qualities you can work on with your dog through socialization! Here are a few ways you can socialize your dog to help them feel more comfortable when interacting with other animals and humans.  


Go For a Walk at a Local Park

Going for a walk at a park is a great way for your dog to socialize with both humans and other dogs! On a nice, sunny day you are guaranteed to meet people of all ages, including children, who will want to pet your dog and say hello. You’ll also have a chance for your dog to meet other dogs and explore new surroundings, which helps them grow more comfortable with the world and people around them.  


Taking an Obedience Course

In addition to learning basic obedience skills (which is also important to become a Hand in Paw Therapy Team), going to a dog training class is a great place to meet other dogs and people in a controlled environment, which will allow your dog to grow socially and bolster friendliness. Plus, your trainer will get to know your pup on a personal level and will be able to offer feedback and advice tailored to your dog’s needs.  


Change it Up

Hand in Paw therapy dogs visit a variety of people and places, so it’s a good idea to  expose your dog to as many different types of people and various settings as possible. Try going to indoor spaces, outdoor spaces, quiet places, loud places and mix up the times you go. By doing this, you will help your dog’s confidence and ensure they are ready for anything that comes their way.  


Stay Positive and Listen to Your Dog’s Cues

During the socialization process you may become frustrated if your dog doesn’t get the hang of it right away – don’t fret! This is a skill that takes time, and it’s important for you to have patience and encourage your dog with lots of treats and praise. Be sure to also recognize the signs of discomfort in your dog such as panting, yawning, and a tucked tail, and keep visits with new dogs short. Over time, meeting new furry friends will get easier!    


If you are interested in becoming a Hand in Paw Therapy Team and want to learn more about the process, please visit the complete guide on our website or email HIP Volunteer Coordinator, Stephanie Stoltzner!  

Happy socializing!