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stress level of the dog

1595 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Skye'sMom
I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions with this:

How can I help keep my pets stress level down during visits?

I took my dog "T" for a therapy dog evaluation today with a local TDI affiliated group. He passed, did very well, and we went right from our testing (which took about 2 1/2 hours to do us all) to a behavioral center. That visit lasted for about 1 1/2 hours. We visited 4 units.
T did very well with all the age groups he met, but he did get stressed at one point and I pulled him aside for some alone time.
He settled out real well, and had a visit that was successful in all.

The leaders of our group felt he did well considering the stress of the day. They also said they do this visit because if any issues are going to come out in the dogs they will come out at this particular one, and they were pleased with how he did.

Anyone have any tips for keeping his stress level low aside from planning visits seperately (he had also been at work with me in a busy vet hospital all morning) from other activities?
He is not real toy or food motivated, and only thing that gets him going is herding.

Thank you all for any advice that may come my way.
I have been looking forward to doing therapy visits with a dog for quite some time, so I am real pleased :)))
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I have a very sensitive therapy dog.

I like to exercise him before a visit to take the edge off. Then limit the therapy visit to 1 hour or less. Then we go through a drive-thru for a little treat, and home to run off some steam. He gets a little wired after he's done, too!

That is the only thing we do that day.

I am sure there will be others with more experience to give more input!
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We do essentially the same thing Jean does.

We try to exercise beforehand so that Abby can get some of that excess energy out and will be nice and calm for the visit. Afterwards, we get into the car and head over to our old folks home. I usually brush her a bit, then put on her special collar and lead and then we go in.

We try to keep our therapy visits to an hour or less. We visit two floors of the old folks home, the first floor where we spend time with people in the two day rooms and the fourth floor where we visit memory impaired patients. I try to make it half and half - a half hour at the first floor and a half hour on the fourth. In between, we get a little bit of quiet time in the hallway and in the elevator.

I always know if she's had "enough" on a given day because she will start to get a bit antsy.
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Thank you guys so much for the tips!!
I had thought the visit was a bit long today, longer than a usual one would be.
T is a fairly calm dog anyway, but I do think exercising him may take the edge off some.
I think he did better today than I would have done if I were in his place LOL
Animal assisted therapy is not for all dogs and all dogs don't like the same types of visits.

I have one retired and one active certified therapy dog. I am also a behavioral evaluator for AAT/AA.

I would never suggest that someone take a dog from testing to a visit. The dog and handler would already be stressed from the testing if it is as intense as ours is. 1 1/2 hours is also too long for an initial visit.

When I help a new team with an initial visit it may be as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour - depending on the dog and the situation. Some places are very hot or very loud, have too many interactions for a long visit, or just not the type of visit a novice dog needs.

A library reading program is pretty boring, since the dog just lies quietly beside a child - mellow, clam dogs love it - high energy dogs do not. They do better in schools or OT where they are active and moving most of the time.

Some dogs like kids and clamor, some like alzheimers patients, some seniors and others hospice home visits or hospitals. A dog that likes kids may be freaked by hospital smells and noises.

Stress is even harder on a dog than on us. You did good stopping to calm your dog. You are his protector and he is your main concern after the safety of the client.

Never feel bad about stopping a visit or shortening time if your dog needs it. He may not like the atmosphere or he may be having an off day. No matter the reason, we always need to be aware of our partners' needs.

I think you are in tune with your dog - good for you!
You should make a good team.

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Thank you Bonnie,
T really likes younger children, and I think a library read sounds like a good idea for him.
I didn't realize how emotionally draining it would be for both of us, we were both so exhausted by the end of the day. He has never been under so much stress before, but our future visits I will not be allowing to be so long and stressful for him, I had no idea.
Thank you guys for your tips, I am here to protect my boy and keep him sane.
your website is very interesting, I wish I lived closer to attend the classes. :)))

Added: My main therapy group will be SCDogs (, completely seperate from who I tested with yesterday. SCDogs does not have another evaluation planned until April or May, so I have to wait to get T tested with them. I had a wonderful young dog I bred (Auggie) tested with them 2 weeks ago, and got registered with the group, but I placed Auggie in his new companion home (that I had been waiting on for him :))), so have no dog currently to visit with that group. We are required to go on a group visit without the dog first so I will go on several in the meantime.
Nice to see this thread back up - I wonder how the OP is doing. Maybe they will check in.

kar06 - while the remedy you posted may be good for some situations, I do not recommend any calming supplement or medication for a therapy animal.

If that was needed it would mean the team was either working in the wrong type of facility, or the animal was not a contender for working in AAT.

The last thing a good therapy animal needs in a good situation is medicated. Our animals live for the days they work.
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