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I have a question for you experienced Therapy Dog folks. I started doing visits to a home once a week about 3 months ago My dog has been approved by two different national groups and is about a year and a half old. We do work through a local Delta group. A resident today was sitting in the doorway to her room talking to another resident in the hall. Both in wheelchairs. The lady in the hall wants to visit with my dog. So I put him beside her and sit him so she can pet him. The other resident says something along the lines of keep him away from her, she hates dogs, and then she tried to kick him. I stepped between her and my dog and she pulls back a little into her room. Dog is still sitting in the hall with the other lady petting him. Then the GR (grumpy resident) says the dog stinks and I'm going to kick him. I told her he had just had a bath thinking that maybe she really does think he is dirty. She says all dogs stink. Then she kicks at him again. So now I know I should have just kept quiet. But I didn't and out of my mouth comes, "Maybe he thinks you smell, too." Yes, I know it was a mistake but the second kick at him sort of riled me up. So now she goes on about he must smell me because we both stink and get him out of there. She says he's not coming in her room because she will kick him if he does. Lady in the hall is still petting sitting dog. I tell GR that he will not come in her room because I won't let him but I also will not let her kick him. Now all this went a lot faster than it sounds like it did. Then the lady in the hall was done petting and we moved on to the next resident down the hall. I di apologize to the lady in charge of my visits before I left for verbally getting in to it with GR. So can any of you offer any advice on how to handle the occasional grumpy resident?
 

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Stay away from them.


Is there any way the "dog friendly" residents could gather in a certain area when you are going to visit? (If they are phyiscally able of course.)
 

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Please, stay away from them. Do not respond to them. This person may have had dementia, Alzheimers, or any number of mental illnesses. She is the victim here-- getting into it with someone who is unwell is simply unfair. You aren't there to visit the well or happy, but the ill and suffering. Please-- find the strength to move yourself to a different resident before you insult another ill person with a quick flippant remark and add to their burdens. Kick your dog? Yes, horrible-- we're all dog lovers here. But too many of us have worked in longterm care facilities or have aging parents with illnesses, to not ask that you please just remove yourself when a resident becomes grumpy, physical, etc. if you do not have the self-control to not play into their illness or agitation and exacerbate things for them. You get to leave the facility at the end of your visit and be relatively well-- the residents don't. The residents must put their trust in the staff.. the staff put their trust in you to excersise self-control among the aged or mentally ill here, regardless of if their condition has made them combative, aggressive, or simply sour. Even if she was just a person in a bad mood, she isn't there because she is well. Just move on to another resident.
 

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Trust me, I will. The nurse who walks around with me will make sure we avoid her from now on. She is really good about screening people but this just came up out of the blue. I think the fact that I was so surprised was why I couldn't keep my mouth shut like I should have.
 

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Brightelf, you are right. Which is why I feel bad. And having taken care of several older relatives in their homes and one in hospice, I know I should have not reacted at all.
 

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Brightelf pretty much said it all. We all love our dogs of course but we cant assume everyone else does as well. What your doing is great work and no doubt gives a big lift to many of the residents, just apparently not all of them. I would think since the nurse was with you, after hearing the lady complain about the dog, the nurse would have rolled the lady who liked the dog to a different location where she could continue her vist and not disturbed the other lady.

I Guess my advice in the future would be:

As soon as someone objects to the dog, move to another area ASAP, The longer you stay in that area the worse itll get and always be polite even though your getting a bunch of crap. When you start to get mad, just take a breath and remember where you are and why your there.
 

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Lots of good advise...I would imagine that would be hard but take it as a learning experience and move on. And thanks for the wonderful work you and your dog do!!!!
 

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Thank you for the hard work you put into your dog and your visits. Please don't beat yourself up over this slip. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, you are a human being with emotions. Next time, I am sure you will handle it differently. Keep your head up!
 

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Issues like this should have been discussed while training and are more common than you might realize.

You will also run across those who "love" your dog so much that you will need to block and protect your dog from pets and hugs that could hurt him.

Quote:So now I know I should have just kept quiet. But I didn't and out of my mouth comes, "Maybe he thinks you smell, too." Yes, I know it was a mistake but the second kick at him sort of riled me up.
I'm gong to be a little more judgemental here and suggest that you might want to step back and rethink if this is something that you really want to do. With dual certifications and 3 months experience a surprise should not have brought that type of response.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I have dealt with the individuals who might possibly harm him with hugs. And there is usually at least one "surprise" every few visits. I freely admit I should not have made the remark. But I do not think it means I need to "rethink if this is something that you really want to do". I have worked for a long time to train him and go through approvals. Maybe it would have been easier to remove myself from the situation if another lady had not been petting him at the time. I WILL remove myself the next time. I am new at this and was looking for some helpful advice. I'm sure if this comes up again I will deal with it differently and in a better way. But this is something I want to do and I am committed to it.
 

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The answer is, you don't "handle" anyone - they are entitled to their opinion.

I am glad you want to do therapy work, but I have to agree with TJ that you need to think long and hard about this. One bad comment that is overheard can be enough for a facility to stop allowing therapy dogs in the door - and it has been a long hard road to acceptance.

In any situation like this, whether a person thinks your dog smells, has big teeth, are allergic, doesn't like that 'kind' of dog, or whatever, simply leave. Tell the person you were visitng that you will be back another time and tell the perosn who objected "I'm sorry - we will leave right away."

It doesn't matter if the situation is real or imaginary - never argue. It IS real in their mind and you are in their home (even if it one room in a facility.)

This will be the least of the type of thing you will come across and I'm surprised you didn't have information and/or role playing about this in your training.

One of the residents I see love my dog one week and say they will kill the viscious beast next week. OK - that's her reality. I react to her mood and stay or leave depending on the day.

If you are in an area with 10 people and 1 objects you must leave if there is no way to keep an acceptable distance.

I know things can pop out of our mouths at inopportune times, but it should never happen during a therapy visit.

Sorry if this seems harsh but as a partner of 3 certified dogs and an evaluator of certified therapy animals, I would rather be blunt with you than see a client insulted or embarrassed.
 

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If someone walked into my house with, say, a snake (I do NOT like snakes), and they wouldn't leave, and I was confined in a wheelchair, you bet I would have behaved "worse" than your "grumpy patient".

You are a guest in their house. You have to treat the residents with respect and be polite. You are a representative of therapy dogs when you are on visits, and when you have "words" with residents, it reflects poorly on therapy dogs in general.

Have a list of the residents who would like a visit, and if you see a new one who wants a visit, ask for their room number to be added to the list. Depending on how large the hall is, it would be rude to block the hall for a visit (especially if people come by who don't like dogs, or are allergic). When you enter a residents room, make sure their roommate is comfortable with the visit, or have them meet in a neutral location. We have group therapy visits, with 4-8 therapy dog teams and anywhere from 5-50 residents, we meet in the main activity area, and the visits last about an hour. I coordinate these visits with the local AKC club, and lead them.

Your attention should be directed on your dog, not at making "snappy comebacks" to the residents. GSDs are an awesome breed, in tune with their owners emotions. When you got frustrated and annoyed with the "GR", your dog could have gotten annoyed also, and done something bad.
 

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The therapy dog training I've done (two classes from a total of three trainers) stressed one thing over and over. Control your environment. Don't attempt to do too much.

I don't know what your rating is, but as you've seen what appears to be a simple residence home can become "unpredictable" to an inexperienced handler who is perhaps attempting too much. A single resident in her own room is a predictable visit. You can pay attention to your dog, the resident and their interaction. Two residents in a busy hallway? Now, you're needing to multi-task.

For me, my service dog is always with me in public. I have to multi-task because that's how life is. But I try to minimize it because the more I'm trying to do, the less I'm aware of what's up with my dog. I ignore my ringing cell phone. I have my credit card ready before I go into the store. If someone wants to pet him, and if I say yes, I stop everything, get down on his level and supervise the interaction. He's a young GSD (and I'm a relatively inexperienced SD handler), and I just want to make sure that the interaction goes perfectly. Plus, by being down at his level, I know that I'm in a better position to protect him if the petter becomes a hugger. If I were doing animal assisted therapy with him, I would do the exact same thing.

If you really like this facility, if I were you, I'd look for ways to simplify visits. Don't try to do too much. You'll be an experienced old hand able to do psychiatric wards at maximum security penitentiaries soon enough. But in order to get there, build a good foundation. Keep it simple. Don't attempt to do too much. Each encounter should be a good encounter. Your dog will learn that every resident and patient adores him and that he's safe in these situations because you keep him safe. Success breeds success. We can't rush it the process. Whether it's potty training or training a therapy dog, we have to build success from the bottom up and one step at a time.

Good luck!
 
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