My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital??? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 02:45 AM Thread Starter
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My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

My 1 1/2 year old GSD passed the Therapy Dog certification program from St. John's Ambulance (the regulatory body here who runs the Therapy Dog Program) in late Sept of this year. He did every task in the test so well I was very proud of him. I thought we would like to work at a local hospital/palliative care unit, but it has taken awhile for their volunteer co-ordinator to get things going - given H1N1, etc.

We arrived this morning for our meeting with the Volunteer Co-ordinator at the hospital and I made sure we arrived a few minutes early to give him a chance to get somewhat acclimatized. He seemed okay, but suddenly barked at the Security Guard (I believe it was the uniform). We got that settled when he very loudly started barking at a woman in a wheelchair!! This is just totally unacceptable and the interview was over at that point. He has seen so many wheelchairs, I have absolutely no idea what was going on.

I do understand the reaction to the uniform - he has an ongoing issue with the postman and this security guard's uniform was similar.

I was, naturally, very disappointed with his extremely short career as a Therapy Dog. I don't know if the regulating body will give us a 2nd chance at a different location - but I have lost my confidence in his behaviour, I do not believe he would harm anyone and certainly there was no hint of biting or aggression today. I think he was startled for some reason and reacted.

Here's my question. Am I expecting too much? Am I expecting too much too soon?? Should I give it a pass for now and try again in a year or two or should I just acknowledge that as a breed, GSD's are not necessarily the best suited for this type of work?

He is protective of me and I am wondering if he really would make a good Therapy Dog? His bark sounded even more intimidating given the sterile cold tile environment of the hospital! Good Lord - I'm sure you could hear that bark throughout the entire facility as it echoed off the walls!

Whatever happens - the extra training has been good for both of us and while I think he could have provided alot of joy to some people who really need it, he certainly cannot be scaring the pants off everyone in the process!! I sure wish he had an "inside voice". Had it been some cockapoo barking they wouldn't even have noticed it - would likely have said "how cute"!

Donna
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 02:52 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

If you think he would be a good therapy dog, I'd suggest working with him some more around wheelchairs and in different environments. Sometimes the hospital environment and smells can take time for a dog to get comfortable in so possibly you can find a way to practice in similar types of places? It may just be due to him being in a strange new environment and then after the security guard appeared he was still on edge. Maybe he just needs a little more work.

I am hoping to get Bianca to be a therapy dog like my previous dog was... She is great with people and did wonderfully at a recent run-through we did of the Delta Society test but I need to work more on her behavior around other dogs on leash.
I was actually surprised recently... Bianca always barks and goes nuts when she sees the mailman on our block, and recently I was sitting with her and a friend outside a coffee shop. A mailman walked by and Bianca got really alert and started doing her pre-barking body language at him (not surprising.) The surprising part was about half an hour later, a police officer was walking in to the coffee shop and he stopped and admired Bianca. He asked to pet her. I let Bianca have a loose leash and she walked right up to him wagging her tail and leaned on him for petting! I was surprised because I was not sure if she would see the officer's uniform and associate it with the mailmen, but she obviously did not...


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 05:16 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

Aww man that stinks! I would love to get my GSD certified but I don't think it's in the stars for him because he is too protective of me and aloof with strangers. He's not all kissy face and lovey-dovey with them at all. The funny thing is though I have the opposite problem with him and uniforms from your dog. My BF is a police officer and Chief has gotten so used to the uniform that when I am out in public with him without the boyfriend and he sees a cop he will literally try to drag me over to them thinking it's BF, or just to say hi I guess because he loves the uniform.

I do understand your frustration though because I had thought about maybe getting my pit bull certified in the future to go around in hospitals..specifically children's burn-units and things like that. A few weeks ago I took my dogs to the dog park where they have been countless times before, and my pit bull has been around plenty of kids in public and has behaved beautifully. Well this one day at the park as SOON as we entered and I let them off leash, my pit ran over to this little boy who was climbing around on the fence and she started barking aggressively at him with her hackles up. I have never seen this behavior out of her and she was seriously acting like the boy was a threat and for some reason he was freaking her out. (Granted it is a DOG PARK not a JUNGLE GYM!) Needless to say I leashed my dogs up and immediately left and have been scared to go back to the dog park with her and let her loose around kids. She has been off leash around babies in strollers and was perfectly fine! This little incident has really worried me because a hospital environment might freak her out if something minute as a kid climbing on a fence does. Ugh. I'm asking myself some of the same questions you are. I certainly don't want my dog reacting aggressively to certain kids.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 05:26 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

That is too bad! How were you feeling? Were you nervous? He may have been feeling your nerves. At 18 months he is still a pup and approaching social maturity. Give him a few months to mature, work with him some more and try it again.

Your dog does not have to be all lovey dovey with people to be a therapy dog either. You want a calm dog and a little aloof is not bad.

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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 06:26 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

Kathy, Chief is very calm and laid back and would do great in a nursing home or hospital environment but I feel like the patients wouldn't be very receptive to him because if they tried to call him over or wanted his head in their lap he would probably ignore them, and that would suck! I have never tried him out in that setting before though so I don't know for sure. Just going by the Chief I know in public and he is attached to my hip and couldn't care less about strangers, unless they have food.....or they're a cop...

I guess there's a novel idea...let the patients hold out treats. *light bulb*

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 06:41 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

Quote:
Quote: I guess there's a novel idea...let the patients hold out treats. *light bulb*
Careful with this one - there are some registering groups that do not allow anyone to give your dog treats.

Check with the registering group that tests your dog.

Bonnie

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 06:59 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

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Originally Posted By: Skye'sMom
Quote:
Quote: I guess there's a novel idea...let the patients hold out treats. *light bulb*
Careful with this one - there are some registering groups that do not allow anyone to give your dog treats.

Check with the registering group that tests your dog.
That makes sense on multiple levels. I don't tolerate pushy treat eaters and have trained my dogs to take treats very gently and with care so they are received well with the public. Anything to make a big, scary looking dog look like a big baby helps!

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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 07:02 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

I have done both therapy work with a gsd who certified and became a tester.

So it's not the breed, and even if a small breed barks, it is not considered cute nor passable in that environment.

September was months ago, if nothing in between, acclimation needs more work under distraction.


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 07:06 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

Quote:
Originally Posted By: KathyW At 18 months he is still a pup and approaching social maturity. Give him a few months to mature, work with him some more and try it again.
I agree with Kathy and want to point it out again. He is still a pup. It may take another year or 18 months for him to finish maturing and he could have a whole new personality by then. Give him some time. If you have access to a wheelchair (sometimes medical supply companies rent them, near us it is $20 for a month - or at least it was in Apr 08 when I looked into it) so you may want to do that for a month. Ride around in it with him on a leash, give him lots of treats from it, etc. Too bad you can't hang out in the hospital to get him used to the smells of it.

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-04-2009, 08:35 AM
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Re: My GSD as a Therapy Dog at a Hospital???

I'm sorry, I can tell how disappointed you are, but I agree with everyone else. Young dog, new environment, nervous owner? Lots of stuff could have been going on for him. I certainly does take a certain kind of dog with a certain personality to be a therapy dog. I think it might be a bit more of a challenge with breeds that are bred to be protective and suspicious.

I would really work with the protectiveness over you also. He needs to learn that you are in control of ALL situations and can handle your own and his safety and everyday situations are just that: everyday situations! I always tell my dogs if I feel that they are barking at something inapropriate: I tell them to cut it off, and then lecture them how in this world, if anything NEEDS to be barked at, I'LL do it!!! That's MY job to decide if something is bark-worthy or not. (They HATE the lecture - you can just see them rolling their eyes, like teenagers - but it quiets them down real quick).

I would do as suggested by others: give Deuce some time to mature and grow up, and socialize the living pants off him!! I would go out of my way and try to find places and situations where he can be exposed to men and women in uniform and make sure he gets lots of treats and petting from everyone around.

I had a spaniel mix that was a therapy dog, we got tested and accepted through a local organization. I used to bring treats for people to give to him on our visits, just to give people a chance to interact with him and to allow them to get him to perform tricks for them (the biggest and best trick was playing the piano). The organization I was with allowed treats, but you need to be careful, because sometimes when visiting nursing homes the elderly patients would get confused and eat the treat I handed them! (making faces all the while because they were kind of gross).
But it was a lot of fun, and I hope that you and Deuce will work things out.

Lucia


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