Does my dog have what it takes to be a therapy dog? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-15-2015, 11:59 PM Thread Starter
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Does my dog have what it takes to be a therapy dog?

So I need so opinions from you all.

I am considering training captain to be a therapy dog to volunteer at children's hospitals, old folks homes etc...

The reason why is because he is the first dog I have had that has a very even, mellow temperament. BUT, he is the kind of dog that would love having a "job". I plan on giving him a job regardless of the therapy dog work (dock jumping) but would like to consider this as well. He has met at this point people, and children and is fine. He has met other dogs and usually ignores them. People gush over him because he is so beautiful and with his even keeled personality, and his intelligence when it comes to training, I think he could be a great candidate. Myself, being self employed, I would have plenty of time to commit to his training and preparing him for this.

He is very polite, and I once had a child rush over when I was walking him, and before I could say anything or even knew they were coming up to us, they started petting him. I held my breath for a second, and then realized captain was totally unaffected. I looked at his body language, it was relaxed. His hackles were not up, he was not stiff, no obvious signs of fear or aggression. He seemed like he could care less, like it was a nothing thing you know?

He has great recall and pretty much follows me everywhere, I don't even really need to recall him. He so far can do a "handshake", sit, stay, lay down, accepts friendly strangers and dogs. And children. He is young enough I think I could go ahead and start this.

Here is where I need advice, I have two major negatives when it comes to him becoming a therapy dog and I am not sure if they are deal breakers or not.

1. He isn't overly crazy in love with meeting new people or animals. He doesn't act out, he isnt mean or anything, and doesn't seem to dislike it, but he just seems to care less. Like he would be fine if they were there, or they weren't. He is aloof, is that the right term? Anyway, I thought to be a therapy dog, the dogs have to be super friendly happy go lucky when meeting people. This isn't captain. He has more of a "hippie" mentality, like he just kind of rolls with whatever and it's all good, everything is cool, he doesn't care.

2. Despite my concerns of him not being a barker, he has finally come out of his shell! And he barks... A lot hahah!!, it doesn't bother me though. It's just that when he is excited he barks. When he sees new people or new things he will bark. And then after a minute he calms down and just minds his own business and ignores everything. It's more of a "look mommy there is someone there" type of bark. Or maybe he just likes the sound of his own voice. I'm sure it is something I could train out of him, but I don't really mind it. If he was a therapy dog though, I think I would need to train him not to bark right?

Sorry this is sooo long. Anyway, your opinions would be great! Thank you!
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 01:35 AM
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I have 2 therapy dogs. 1 golden and 1 GSD. In these situations the golden gets more excited to meet people then the GSD, but not as much as one would think. I've worked with Midnite a lot more at nursing homes. Midnite is aloof but accepts people when they approach. He sits automatically when someone approaches and doesn't bother if they aren't interested. He has brought several people that have been bit and are scared of dogs to a new level f understanding dogs. I can't tell you how many older people love seeing a GSD because they had one growing up. We haven't worked with any kids, but that would be ideal for Midnite. I've been asked to bring him to a home to visit with someone in hospice in the next couple weeks. Midnite has never barked at anyone and I don't think that is acceptable, it can scare people. Always keep nails trim, I don't allow Midnite to give paw, I don't want him to hurt someone. He taught himself to turn around with his back to them do they can pet him without falling over. There can be s lot of noise, none can affect the dog. I never trained Midnite for this. He took his CGC test and they told me that I should test him for it because they thought he was perfect. Before him dog after dog owners were told what they needed to work on or their dog was to young and wouldn't pass the test. Midnite pleasantly surprised me.

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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 07:46 AM
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First, I will not work a dog in therapy work until I have had them over 1 year - I won't even start the process of taking the CGC/TDI class until then so I am being fair to the dog. So you have a good long time to continue to evaluate him.

Second, a dog should love the work. They should want to meet people, be interested in them whether it looks like a Golden's interest, or a herding breed's interest. It is hard work - it can be draining for a dog, even though your therapy sessions should only last an hour - it's an intense hour. It's again, not fair, to do that with a dog who is not also getting something out of it.

I have a lovely little BC mix who was very good in all the ways you described - so we prepped, went through 2 classes, got the TDI, did the vetting, and started to visit and even though she was accepting, I could see her heart wasn't in it like my other dog. She was compliant and that was it. I could have continued - compliance looks like the behavior you want - but there was no enthusiasm other than for the ride, and the after therapy treat. So even after a lot of prep work, a lot of training, cost, etc, I stopped using her for the work.

PS - check injury and PT info before you start the dock diving...





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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 09:38 AM
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I agree with Jean, a therapy dog should LOVE the work. I think even if they don't show it, it can be stressful for them to be mobbled by people on a regular basis, if they are not the kind of dog that LOVES to be mobbed by people.

Also, he sounds more like a dog that has shut down rather than one that is mellow. Perhaps he is a very mellow dog, but you will need more time to see his real personality. Jean gave some good advice, wait a year to REALLY get to know him. Like the barking thing - what other behaviours is he waiting on to allow himself to show once he feels more comfortable and settled in?

Years ago I had a therapy dog. We were part of a local organization that modeled itself after the Delta society. My dog LOVED the work!!! I had to use the employee entrance and employee elevator when I went to visit one facility, but I would take his leash off, and he would run to the elevator his tail wagging, waiting for the elevator to open, walked in on his own (with me following, of course), and wait, tail wagging for us to get our floor and start his visits.

Part of the evaluation was allowing strangers to handle him, bend over him, etc, showing curiosity and interest about strange equipment and noises, and being as outgoing and friendly when away from me, with strangers, in a strange place.

Hope that Captain makes it, but I'd just take a wait-and-see attitude, and not put any expectations on him for the time being.

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 10:44 AM
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As has already been stated, the dog needs to love the work to be a good Therapy Dog. If he is also going to be a Service Dog you will need to go through an organization that allows such -- Therapy Dog, Inc. (TDInc.)allows dual work while Therapy Dog International (TDI) does not.

The dog must be 1 year of age to be evaluated as a TD. I would also suggest a CGC at 1 year of age or later. Barking at people would not be allowed for a TD or a SD.

If you think that he will work out as a TD also begin getting him use to a dremel on his nails if he is not already. A TDs nails need to be as smooth as possible.

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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 11:00 AM
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I agree they have to love it. Midnite really does. I tell him it's time to go to work and he is ready to go.

I was a little nervous about the nursing home because everyone including mentally ill patients were wandering around. You have to watch them carefully because they don't know. They try sneaking in food and what starts out as petting can turn into man-handling. There are some that are terrified. So as the handler you have to read all these things and keep your dog safe.

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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Castlemaid View Post
- what other behaviours is he waiting on to allow himself to show once he feels more comfortable and settled in?

.

Like what kind of dark secrets is he hiding? *chuckle* captain is a dog with a past. As long as it's not jumping on the couch when I'm not looking...
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you people, I think I have my answer. I don't think captain would loovee meeting new people. I don't think he cares. He is not shut down, but just very aloof. Whenever someone tries to pet him, he is so focused on me that he won't stop for them. He just keeps moving to wherever I am. I think we are getting a little too close haha. Yes, he probably could be an almost good candidate but not quite... For a TD. I'll go ahead and stick to dock jumping, that he DOES love, I've never seen a dog that is such a natural at it. He loves to swim and loves to fetch, put the two together= captain heaven!

Thanks for the feedback everyone.
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 02:33 PM
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Most peopleís idea of a therapy dog is the lab that comes into the hospital room and jumps onto the bed and lets the person pet them. This is not all that therapy dogs do. I have a shepherd that is very aloof and could care less about people touching him. He doesnít act friendly, he wonít go up to people if they call him, heís just indifferent. But heís a therapy dog. Iíve taken him to schools, assisted living facilities, and various other groups in which he performs tasks and shows off his obedience and tricks. I go with a group of shepherds and we show people what the dogs are capable of, teach them how to approach a dog, talk about the breed, ect. Some of the dogs in the group love to be touched and will go up to people. Other dogs are there for the demonstration and to show off their abilities. Both types of dogs are extremely useful in order to entertain people and provide a form of therapy.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 03-16-2015, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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Most peopleís idea of a therapy dog is the lab that comes into the hospital room and jumps onto the bed and lets the person pet them. This is not all that therapy dogs do. I have a shepherd that is very aloof and could care less about people touching him. He doesnít act friendly, he wonít go up to people if they call him, heís just indifferent. But heís a therapy dog. Iíve taken him to schools, assisted living facilities, and various other groups in which he performs tasks and shows off his obedience and tricks. I go with a group of shepherds and we show people what the dogs are capable of, teach them how to approach a dog, talk about the breed, ect. Some of the dogs in the group love to be touched and will go up to people. Other dogs are there for the demonstration and to show off their abilities. Both types of dogs are extremely useful in order to entertain people and provide a form of therapy.
Thank you for your opinion. I think captain is more like your dogs he could really care less about any one. He isn't aggressive or anything, he is just more nonchalant. All he cares about is me and his toy (very toy motivated). I suppose I could use him still as a TD for demonstrations and such, but think he would be better at just sticking with dock jumping. Thank you though.
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