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?