Raising a therapy dog.
So, since I got her at 7 weeks (currently 11.5 weeks), she has displayed what I think is the perfect temperament for therapy work. Sweet and loves to cuddle and get attention from everybody. Loves to explore new places and meet new people, but is willing to listen to me.
At this age she can get a little too excited at first and wants to jump up on people, which I do correct and in future I have no doubt that we'll get to where it won't even be an issue.
I am hoping to have her tested and registered with TDI, as well as get her Canine Good Citizenship and any other titles/testing we can do to help her.
I've been socializing her with all sorts of people (at her pace based on what I have time for, but for her, she could do it all day long), places, and noises I can... And she just takes it all in stride. A few times something will spook her for a moment, or she gets confused by something, then it's "Hmm, okay, that's not too bad", and she's fine again.
Very very friendly, and her bite inhibition training (more like rule) has been going splendidly. As long as you have a good treat for her, she'll try to jump the moon for you.
Anyways, just want to make sure I'm on the right track, and if anyone has any books, websites, or other information. I know therapy work training isn't as big of a deal as service dog training... But I still want to make sure I'm not forgetting anything.
So, any resources, any advice, tips, etc. We have 9-10 months of stuff at least where I can squeeze in a lot of work. :)
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I would make sure she is comfortable walking on slick/shinny/slippery floors. See if you can get her to experience a few elevator rides. I think the main thing is just socializing your pup to a lot of new places and novel experiences. Expose him to wheelchairs, gurneys, moving equipment inside large areas.
When I had my therapy dog tested, they checked for noise sensitivity, willingness to be handled by strangers, and his confidence in a new environment surrounded by strangers without me being there. Neutral to other dogs and other pets - at any one time a facility may have other therapy pets present, including cats and birds and rabbits, so my dog needed to not pay attention to those distractions.
One thing I found very helpful was teaching him silly tricks - made my visits start off on a good note, and a great way to break the ice and get people to laugh and relax around him.
My first dog was a TD. I agree with Lucia on what they look for with testing. They really want those bomb proof easygoing dogs that won't look twice at other animals or react to strange things - some dogs naturally have it while others may take a while. You're blessed to have time on your side - don't rush her if she hesitates at something.
I'll add that you want to acclimatize her to "odd" things often, physical objects, smells, and noises - hospitals or nursing homes are full of things you don't find elsewhere, not to mention odd behaviours from the patients that might spook dogs including flailing and yelling. Alex was as bomb proof as they come literally but I never pushed him if I thought he might be close to having enough.
Two things that I personally was very careful on were not allowing Alex to 'shake hands' if they were very elderly, nails even when well-trimmed can cause tears in fragile skin. Also, I never allowed Alex to lick - you never know what type of medication, lotion, or food might be on their hands and I didn't want him getting ill.
Most places will have restrictions or rules; one place actually was requiring us to carry hand sanitizer with us to sanitize residentís hands after touching the dogs. I ended up sending that back to our director and they agreed it wasn't our responsibility but always ensure you read up on each location beforehand to follow any rules they may have in place.
Most of all - have fun and relax! Fun tricks like "play dead" or "high fives" or the like are always great ice breakers for residents who may be more hesitant :) It also can keep your dog from getting bored if they start to fidget ;) Take lots of treats and water, I also made sure to have baby wipes on hand to keep up any messes that may happen or pass on to residents if needed.
Thanks guys. :) I'm going to see what I can do with the odd hospital type stuff. I'm not 100% sure where I can get that... But my school has a big nursing program with a "mock hospital", so I could see if they'd let me walk around it and use it after classes are over and before the custodian really starts cleaning.
So far pawing hasn't been an issue with her. She just doesn't use her paws for things... Even to get my attention (unless she's jumping up on me or beside me, the jumping up is in the process of being corrected, just need to get help from friends to work on it with others).
And yeah. I started with necessary commands, once we get one or two more in we'll be working on more of the "fun" stuff. :)
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There's a good book I know, it's about raising/training therapy and service dogs:
There's also this website I like: http://www.dogplay.com/Activities/Therapy/therapy.html
I'd suggest training classes and acclimating the dog to different surfaces, items, etc as you may encounter medical equipment and different surfaces in a therapy setting. If you can find a therapy dog class in your area (when your dog's a little older) they should have equipment to use in training.
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