A red golden doodle as a therapy dog in the classroom

Can your puppy become a therapy dog?

A red golden doodle as a therapy dog in the classroom

Carmel in the classroom before COVID-19

Do you think it is easy to turn a puppy into a therapy dog?

In a recent Instagram live, I was interviewed about my work as a therapy dog handler and about my book, The Amazing Power of Dog Therapy, I self published about this topic. During the interview an interesting question was asked: What tips and suggestions would you have for someone who has a young dog and would like to get certified as a therapy dog team.

I paused for a while in order to answer the question and thought about the best answer I could give to those who have very young dogs and imagine they will become therapy dogs. In my thoughts, I went back to the time when we got our golden doodle five years ago and what made us think she would be a great therapy dog. We got Carmel when my daughter was 10 years old and we thought it was a good time to introduce a dog to our family. We actually didn’t have therapy work in mind at all. But as a young dog, Carmel exhibited such incredible physical strength that I was not able to walk her and hiring a trainer who could help was the only idea that made sense. Through working with our trainer and through a series of obedience trainings, visits to stores, and conversations with our trainer, it became apparent that our golden doodle had an incredible disposition and love for people of all ages. She loved to be petted by other people and was genuinely interested in interacting with them and especially with children. That’s how the idea of therapy developed. We describe this journey in more detail in our first book, From Unruly to Therapy Dog.

Based on our experiences, my best advice would be to consider the idea of certifying as a therapy team but without pressuring for it. I think that the best thing would be to just have an open minded and curious approach and engage your dog in many activities, such as walking, socializing with other dogs and with people in places like Lowe’s or Home Depot, and getting involved in trainings such as obedience training and then Canine Good Citizen. As your dog matures, through those activities, and conversations with trainers, you will see some signs that will give you an idea that your dog might be a good candidate for a therapy dog. Even involving your dog in a training such as agility can also give you an idea if he or she would like do these kinds of sports instead, or maybe agility can be just an additional and fun activity, which happened in our case. In other words, involving your dog in a variety of activities and ensuring that he or she eats healthy food and treats are aspects to focus on at first because this  journey will open many pathways for your dog.

What question do you have about our journey or therapy dogs in general?

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comment 27 comments
  • TheWizard

    What a worthy goal, and so many will benefit from you and Carmel’s story

    • Barbara

      We are so happy we can share!!! I understand now that this kind of blogging is so important, beyond posting on Instagram.

      • TheWizard

        yes very much so! and there are many who have puppies who will be inspired by this when they find it!

    • Barbara

      Bubbles? You mean the way the comment window is shaped?

      • YoungWizard

        cool.  just trying different things.  how are you?

        • Barbara

          Thanks, not bad! Rainy day so we went to the mall and my daughter got some cool teen clothes.
          Did you contact Fran? It’s Daniel, right? Sorry I am sometimes confused with these character names/avatar names. Lol And I hope you are doing well as well!

        • Barbara

          In these bubbles look like text messages so this is pretty cool.

          • Daniel

            That’s cool. I have not had the opportunity yet but will very soon. Yeah they do kind of look like messages.

    • Daniel

      Think how Carmel could help the axolotls find the special children of wik

  • Barbara

    I love this idea, Daniel, but it got quite busy for me recently: going back to therapy and trying to blog. And I am more a non-fiction writer so the fictional part is something that comes not as easily, and I don’t have a concept clarified. I’ll have to think about it and I need a little time. I have to get some work done on my job research projects. LOL
    I am actually on a sabbatical this semester and I need to get the research projects done. LOL so I just need some time. I’m sorry I’m so busy!

    • Barbara

      And Daniel, you can kick me out of this particular group for now if that’s better. I have no issues with this at all. 🙂 No worries at all.:)

        • Barbara

          No. Lol I am just saying that I do not have the time right now to contribute to the axolotls writing group. 🙂 I need some time. I am sorry if I sounded weird.

    • Daniel

      Hey nobody is rushing that’s not what I meant. I just think you have a talent for fiction you may not have noticed yet, Miss Queen Hen

      • Barbara

        Talent for fiction? Lol You never know!
        Oh I was recently thinking about even writing a children’s book with Carmel as a character. That would require finding an illustrator. I would definitely like to contribute to axolotls with Carmel. It’s just that I have some projects that I really need to prioritize right now, at this moment. 🙂 I would imagine Carmel’s part would be some kind of episode, not throughout the book, so it would not have to be a very long part.But if you have a little bit more clear idea what you would like to see in that episode, I think it would help. 🙂

        • Daniel

          We are going to make graphic versions of all the books

  • Barbara

    What does graphic version mean? I cannot keep up with you!

  • Barbara

    You know, I was thinking about writing a little book that would be more like a story and for children about Carmel. I just do not know the concept yet, meaning what the story would be about. But once I come up with the idea, I would like to work with someone here to put together with illustrations. Do we have anybody here who creates illustrations for children’s books? We obviously do. Lol
    I just need to really think about the concepts, the message for children. Writing for children is actually quite complex.

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