I was speaking to someone who is involved in the guide dog & therapy dog field. I'm hoping to add a GSD to my family later in the year or early 2015, anyhow he mentioned that GSD's were not suited to the therapy dog role.
I disagreed, but he said my info was based on my experience with the "old-style do everything" GSD (admittedly my last experience with GSD'd was back in my teenage years, over 25 years ago).
He cited that GSD's nowadays were more specialized, being bred for schutzhund, sport activities and protection so they are not very empathetic dogs (outside of their owners). He also said there were very few guide/assistance dog organizations still using GSD's. Most had moved onto other more suitable breeds like labs, goldens etc
He said GSD's were more suited to activities like Police work, personal protection work, SAR etc
So what kind of characteristics/temperament should one ask a breeder for in a pup if I'd eventually like to have my pup become a therapy dog?
Or is the modern GSD not suited for this role?
I am posting this in the Bloodlines forum as I wonder if certain bloodlines would be more suited to this role than others.
p.s. I already value traits such as - genetic obedience, pack drive, biddability, high thresholds, calm, non-reactive etc I know this will make for a great companion dog and I have one local breeder already earmarked who breeds for this; but I am not sure if these traits also translate well into the field of therapy?
stop speaking to that person, they have no clue what they are talking about, there are many members on this forum that have registered GSD therapy dogs, some are involved in Schutzhund, and other activities, what you need is a GSD with a good temperament and a good foundation in OB training, your GSD may like going to the hospital, may like the reading program, or just hanging out in the lobby, you`ll know once you start
I have a friend who works in a very well known service dog organisation (I would rather not say which one) and she told me that GSDs are known as the Rolls Royce of her organisation. A good one is phenomenal and no comparison to the other breeds.
Having said that breeding is massively important and will make a huge difference on your pups future as a therapy dog.
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It kind of depends on what you want your therapy dog to do, or what your idea of the work that they do is.
If you want a dog to jump onto hospital beds and lay down with people while they pet it, that’s not really your prototypical GSD. Sure, you can train it, or you can luck out and get a GSD that does like to do that with strange people, but in all technicality that isn’t what a GSD should be like. There are plenty of people on here that will tell you their dog would do it in a heartbeat.
My dog is a therapy dog. He’s non-reactive, well trained, and doesn’t care for petting. He’ll tolerate petting, and if you offer he’ll stand there and allow it, but he’s not going to ask the person to pet him (in the way a lab or something else might come up to a stranger). I go to hospitals, assisted living facilities, and schools and put on demonstrations of obedience with my dog. We have others in the group that love being pet or getting attention from people. My dog enjoys working obedience and showing people what a well-trained GSD is capable of.
Both types of dog are extremely useful therapy dogs.
Just like Martemchik said. Traveler is a therapy dog and we mainly go to one VA clinic and rarely get in the door. I find that Traveler's best work is his ability to initiate conversation. Most of the vets we see are just hanging around waiting for appt. times or waiting for med refills, etc. When we walk up a couple guys will talk to me or call him over and next thing, everyone has a story about their dogs past or present and at that point, time flies for everyone. Traveler tolerates petting but doesn't seek it. Certainly no lap dog. I want to get into the kids reading program but working full time has put that on the back burner for now.
OP said "I disagreed, but he said my info was based on my experience with the "old-style do everything" GSD (admittedly my last experience with GSD'd was back in my teenage years, over 25 years ago)"
these still exist but as a whole are less and less prevalent . At the core of this character is a deliberate selection for balance .
OP said "So what kind of characteristics/temperament should one ask a breeder for in a pup if I'd eventually like to have my pup become a therapy dog? "
what kind of therapy? physical support (brace dog , stabilizer) , assistant type (hearing aide , pick up and bring dog ) , or emotional support? All very valuable roles , each one a slightly different dog.
OP said "p.s. I already value traits such as - genetic obedience, pack drive, biddability, high thresholds, calm, non-reactive etc I know this will make for a great companion dog and I have one local breeder already earmarked who breeds for this; but I am not sure if these traits also translate well into the field of therapy?"
The answer is yes, they most certainly do . Check out many threads on the forum which are under genetic obedience , herding bloodlines etc.
this was said "
stop speaking to that person, they have no clue what they are talking about, there are many members on this forum that have registered GSD therapy dogs"
DO continue listening to that person . He is stating a fact . Some guide dog breeding programs got derailed because of the genetics of the GSD's they were selecting . Some are no longer taking on GSD for two reasons 1) nature of the dogs they were dealing with and 2) the public perception of the breed which made the user not as openly welcome .
If this person is involved in guide instituitions he would tell you that they also train and provide dogs for other assistance work "therapy".
It is not in the same realm as hospital visitation dogs.
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