Temperment Traits for a Therapy Dog - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
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Red face Temperment Traits for a Therapy Dog

My husband and I are looking at a litter of 14 puppies. Both parents come from a long line of Schutzhunde 3 Titles. I would like to use the dog in Mental Health Therapy treatment.

I am not sure what personality traits would make a good therapy dog. I know about temperment tests, but what I am wanting are thoughts from breeders who have chosen a puppy for families specific for therapy work, and what traits they felt would work best and why?

We went yesterday and looked at the puppies, will go again this weekend, and will make our finale decision in 3 weeks. The breeder is German, and is not completely understanding my translation.

I can see a large range of personalities in the puppies, but I am not sure which traits would really work best.

Input would be very appreciated.

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Amy
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 05:52 PM
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What made you decide on a GSD for this job? I'm not trying to be discouraging but IMO GSDs are often not the best choice if Therapy work is your top priority. GSDs bond very strongly to their people but as adults, tend to be quite aloof towards outsiders. They will tolerate petting and the such from friendly strangers but seeking out such interactions is not characteristic of the breed. Good Therapy Dogs tend to be dogs who are more outgoing and friendly by nature. That isn't to say their aren't GSDs out there that don't meet the breed standard temperament wise and would be more well suited to the job but you shouldn't count on getting such a dog when looking at this breed. GSD puppies are often quite friendly to everyone until they mature, at which point they develop the common aloof attitude towards strangers. So it would be really hard to choose a GSD puppy for friendliness, as that is a trait that often changes with age.

I'd suggest looking into breeds that are known for being very friendly, sweet, non-guarding breeds for a Therapy Dog. A lot of the sporting breeds would be well suited for the job, as would Rough or Smooth Collies.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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Agile Thank You

Hello Agile, The GDS is what my husband grew up with and wants. Thank you for your insight regarding their personality.
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by AgileGSD View Post
What made you decide on a GSD for this job? I'm not trying to be discouraging but IMO GSDs are often not the best choice if Therapy work is your top priority.


With all due respect....you must not know very many good GSDs? In my opinion, a GSD of solid nerve, properly socialized and trained can bite the bad guy in the morning and sooth the sick in the afternoon of the same day.



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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 09:30 PM
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My next dog will be a GSD of course and will also be worked as a Therapy Dog along with other jobs.

Best thing is to go with a breeder who knows their lines and knows their dogs and is one that you trust. Tell them what you need in your dog and then have them pick out a pup for you.

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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 09:32 PM
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Best thing is to go with a breeder who knows their lines and knows their dogs and is one that you trust. Tell them what you need in your dog and then have them pick out a pup for you.
Amen.


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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 09:39 PM
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For the therapy dog folks asking themselves why I would drop my leash to take a photo when both activities would be considered inappropriate in therapy work.....the patient is my brother.


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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 09:50 PM
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With all due respect....you must not know very many good GSDs? In my opinion, a GSD of solid nerve, properly socialized and trained can bite the bad guy in the morning and sooth the sick in the afternoon of the same day.
Good GSDs are not supposed to care about strangers, not supposed to be terribly interactive with them. IMO that isn't an ideal trait for a therapy dog, where the patients tend to want the dog to pay attention to them. Jora passed TDI and Delta tests without an issue but she wouldn't have made a good therapy dog because she wouldn't have been interested in interacting with strangers in any meaningful way. IMO that is a correct GSD temperament. What she was good at was kid-dog safety education - she did tricks and the kids never noticed that she didn't pay attention to them when they were petting her My Collie would have been a perfect Therapy Dog though. He loved everyone and was very sensitive to people's emotions - typical of the breed and perfect for Therapy work.
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 09:56 PM
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Quote:
Good GSDs are not supposed to care about strangers, not supposed to be terribly interactive with them.
Ding! Beyond puppy hood (where I would be concerned if the puppy WEREN'T happy, wiggly, and wanting anybody to pet it), the German Shepherd Dog is supposed to be ALOOF. They are not supposed to make indiscriminate friendships.

This is also known as, I agree with AgileGSD.

It's not to say GSDs can't be therapy dogs....they can...they just generally don't have the correct temperament for the breed, or they just tolerate others petting them and talking to them.

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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-07-2011, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by AgileGSD View Post
.....wouldn't have been interested in interacting with strangers in any meaningful way.
Your comments on an aloof GSD temperament are accurate and given the only other breed I have ever owned is a Collie, I see your rational as reasonable.....but....meaningful interaction is determined by the patient. With many of the patients Dayna and I visit...aloof is a good thing. The dog accepts all contact, but does not typically initiate. This allows my deaf, dumb, and blind patient to approach on his terms. Even the most subtle bit of eagerness results in him pulling away....he won't engage the Golden because he overwhelms him. When a patient, like my brother with cerebral palsy, has a condition that limits their range of motion...again aloof is a good thing because he can stroke the dog in his clumsy way...on his terms. Although he likes the Golden because he is soft....as would be a Collie....so I'll give ya that.


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Last edited by W.Oliver; 09-07-2011 at 10:11 PM. Reason: stroke the dog...not stoke the dog...LOL
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