Information on "therapy dog" training - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-30-2012, 02:51 AM Thread Starter
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Information on "therapy dog" training

I met a woman on the beach today with a german shepherd from the same breeder as Bear, and she said her dog is a therapy dog at the hospital here. I think this would be an ideal job for Bear to have but I don't know a ton about it. I didn't get her phone number but I see her often in the mornings so I'll definitely get it next time. In the meantime I was wondering if anyone here has a therapy gsd?

I just wanted to get information on what training is involved or how you even know your pup will be a good candidate for that type of work. Bear loves meeting new people and is such a ham...but he's also only 4.5 months old and I know that doesn't necessarily translate to him loving that as an adult. Is there any kind of training program that would allow me to bring bear inside certain environments to socialize him even more while he's still young?

My husband is in the military so working at the hospital here would mean working with other service members which I think would benefit me and make me happy as much as it does Bear. If anyone has experience with this I would so appreciate more info! Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-30-2012, 06:26 AM
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I'm a hospice nurse with a 3 1/2 month old GSD that I plan to get into therapy dog work. Am working with a trainer that certifies dogs for therapy work. Gretta's still a little young at present to go through the actual training but our trainer tells me that the most important thing at this time is to socialize, socialize, socialize. Expose the pup to as many different experiences, people and things that you can. Wheelchairs, walkers, umbrellas, hats etc. And we're working on basic obedience, sit, down, stay etc. She says the younger the dogs have started working on socialization, the easier it's been for them to pass the therapy cert. I think they have to be a year old, but don't quote me on that.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-01-2012, 09:38 PM
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Volunteering with a Therapy Dog group is very rewarding. I was visiting at a long term care facility for the past 6 years, until my darling recently passed away. Because I've been a member for so long, I'll be able to bring my puppy in as a "Therapy Dog in Training" once he's mastered the basics. He's now just over 5 months old, very outgoing, but I need him to learn a few more things before I bring him in. It's all about making sure that the residents are safe, and he's a typical rambunctious puppy. I think the usual age minimum is 1 yr.

I can give you some info on what our local group requires: from a purely practical standpoint, they want you to have liability coverage for your dog. This is covered through my homeowners' insurance. Other groups might differ in this respect, I don't know. The testing itself is very intense, if the dog isn't used to this sort of thing. So socialization is very very important, but not only in a usual meet and greet way. Some of the things that the dog has to do:

Walk loose leash on a flat collar (only this type of collar is acceptable)
Absolutely no jumping up on people (or furniture for that matter)
Be able to sit/stay while you drop the leash and walk away from the dog
Stay calm once you've handed the leash to someone else to walk off together
Ignore the other dogs in the room being tested with you (no barking)
Show steady nerves when a garbage bag full of tins is dropped behind him/her
Be comfortable being approached by someone in a wheelchair
Be comfortable when someone walks up from behind, using a walker or cane
Stand steady while other people all bend over the dog at once

I've probably forgotten a few, but that's the gist of it. I waited until my dog was 3 years old to get him to the stage where I knew he would be accepted.
He was very immature until then, lol. I was lucky and was able to bring him to work with me, so he had lots of experience with strangers and loud noises.
I'm not working there any more, so this new little guy doesn't get that same experience. I take him out as much as I can, and try to think of new things that are different: loud things like walking past exterior venting shutes, anything weird like that to get him used to the unusual - bridges, for heights and rushing water under him...anything that's uncommon to everyday life, so he can gain confidence by getting over his initial apprehensions. Of course meeting as many people of all ages as possible: pet stores are perfect, hardware stores are really good too. Basically, anywhere I can, I take him.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-04-2012, 09:04 AM
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Not knowing where you live, I can't advise you as to where you can find a training facility - check with your vet or a local breeder.

You can pretty much start training your dog at any time - we start the "formal" training of the puppies that we decide to keep from a litter at three months. By three months they already know all of the basic training; that's when we get into the intermediate and advanced training required for therapy.

"Blanketback" did cover much of which is required if you expect your dog to be registered as a therapy dog. My girls were tested and registered by TDI (Therapy Dogs International). Regardless of the level of training they cannot be registered before the age of 12 months (with TDI).

There are few things that you can do in life that are more rewarding - be forewarned you can REALLY get hooked!

We visit a total of 12 elementary classrooms in three different schools for the TDI "Tail Waggin'"reading program. One class is made up of special needs 4th & 5th graders. Another class is made up entirely of autistic children. We are currently visiting two area psychiatric centers, and two private homes. In addition to all of that we are in the process of setting up a program with the SVU unit of our county District Attorney's office. BUSY!!! BYW, in case you haven't already guessed; I'm retired.

Good luck

ARABELLE vom Garringer CGC, TDI

BRYNNA vom Garringer AKC STAR PUPPY, CGC, TDI (crossed over February 15, 2018)
AHREN vom Garringer (crossed over December 30, 2011)
B'ELANNA vom FlaglerHaus CGC, SAR (crossed over March 4, 2011)
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-04-2012, 10:11 AM
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Aww, Ernie that is great!

Good info so far. There are some stickies in this section as well.

Good nerves have to be there. Trust in the handler is huge - they will look to you to pull the hand out of the fur, the face out of their face, etc. Set them up now to know that you have their back and they will relax and enjoy.

I have not done therapy with my GSDs, but did with a BC-Chow type mix who did not like it after all! That was exhausting for me - I had to do the therapy visits until I saw she just was not into other people. I also had a GSD-Schipperke who did it for a number of years and then he also had enough, got more "Schipperke" and as he matured into a full adult, became more watchful, less welcoming. Also to be noted - he was extremely sensitive to the environments in which we visited and the pain/upset we encountered so I had to be sure to only visit facilities where there was a positive at some point (no hospice, no only difficult cases).

I had him from 6 months on and used a lot of food to create positive associations with things - wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches - if he saw them he was treated. To the point if he saw a baby carriage, he would start to chase after it - treat! I get a treat! Good thing he was small. He had a natural infinity for people with developmental disabilities and very sick children. So there was nothing to teach him there.

I also taught a say hello command, which helps tons. Then, always work on cute tricks, which helps people who don't want to or cannot pet a dog - they can sit and watch twirl, spin, crawl, etc. and enjoy that.

It is very rewarding, if your dog likes it. And if they don't, it's very tiring!

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-18-2012, 12:12 PM
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My girl Chita is a registered Therapy Dog with TDInc. (Therapy Dog Incorporated) based in Cheyenne, WY.

We've only done a couple of visits, but will start doing more now that school is out and hopefully, I'm not running all over the place for kids activities. I want to earn her TD title through AKC, so we need to do 50 visits. She's already SchH titled to IPO3, as well as having her CD and RN titles through AKC. Love showing the versatility of the GSD!!

Ball Zulu z Martinické Staré skoly CD, RN, CGC
Mystic vd Traumwolfen
Neon vd Traumwolfen

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RIP - Chita IPO3 CD RN THDA CGC KKL1, Elsa HOT SchH1 CD & Viggo TR1 CD
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-22-2012, 03:17 PM
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Our 3 yr old GSD is a therapy dog certified thru Delta. We took a therapy dog class offered locally which was very helpful in understanding what the expectations for the dog and handler were. The only thing we didn't do that I wish we had earlier was teaching her to ride an elevator and walking on tile floors. We are visiting in a hospital setting and that's the only thing she's had difficulty with.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-24-2012, 12:54 AM
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Originally Posted by JeanKBBMMMAAN View Post
Aww, Ernie that is great!!

ARABELLE vom Garringer CGC, TDI

BRYNNA vom Garringer AKC STAR PUPPY, CGC, TDI (crossed over February 15, 2018)
AHREN vom Garringer (crossed over December 30, 2011)
B'ELANNA vom FlaglerHaus CGC, SAR (crossed over March 4, 2011)
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-24-2012, 07:28 AM
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My trainer for regular obedience mentioned to me that I should think about this with my dog. All three of hers are trained for therapy and she rotates taking them to the hospital. I've taken mine with me to my mom's house to visit with her, she is terminally ill, so she's either in a hospital bed or wheelchair and I was pleasantly surprised at how well mine did. She stood right next to my mom and let her pet her, she was so calm(normally she would be a little more excited) My mom has only been in contact with my twice before this, both times in my home, so it was definitely different for my dog.

Misty- Samoyed Mix, Tannor- Golden Retriever CGC
Robyn- GSD CGC, TC, Midnite-GSD CGC,TC, Brennan-Golden Retriever CGC, Batman-Husky/Greyhound , Apollo-GSD
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