Labradoodle & Goldendoodle Forum
Hello Everyone...We are interested in having our Doodle go through therapy training so we can take her to hospitals, nursing homes, etc.Our Doodle is one year and four months old now. Her temperament will need some work (while she does have a good foundation). Can anyone recommend a company in the Maryland area to do this? Is it too late to train her as a therapy dog?
Thank you in advance.
We have a group here for owners of doodles who have their therapy dog certification as well as those who are interested in doing therapy work with their doodles.
Basic obedience and a CGC title are the prerequisites for therapy dog certification. Have you already gotten that? if not, you will want to look for CGC classes/testing in your area.
I'm wondering what you mean when you say her temperament will "need some work"? Temperaments are pretty hard-wired from puppyhood. Dogs can be trained and behaviors can be modified, but the basic temperament is pretty much what it is.
Is therapy work something you think your dog would enjoy? It's important that it be something that's fun & rewarding for the individual dog as well as for the owner. Not every dog would enjoy it, and for those who don;t, there are lots of other activities that might be a better fit.
Therapy dogs should have some basic personality characteristics; they should be naturally out-going, confident, stable (not easily spooked by things like bicycles, wheelchairs, loud or sudden noises, etc), people oriented, calm, comfortable, and well-socialized to all kinds of environments. Some of these things can be learned, others are inherent in the dog.
https://petpartners.org is a national organization that registered pet therapy teams. They don't certify them, and they don't do the training for the animal, but they do evaluations and register them. They are the organization that hospitals and nursing homes (around here at least) use. They also take dogs into schools and have the kids read to the dogs - I'm not sure Maggie could sit still for that. There is a handler class that you have to take before you can do anything else. It's available online and in person in some areas. I learned a lot from it. I like their philosophy that you are your animal's best advocate. It's your job as the handler to read your dog and make sure that it's a good experience for them, as well as the people they are visiting. They also really empower you to remove your animal from a situation that is not good for them.
Maggie and I are going through this right now - and we may fail spectacularly, but we're having fun playing. The actual behaviors that they need are pretty basic. Walk nicely on a leash, sit, down, stay, be nice for petting etc. All the requirements are in the handler course. They do have to be brave about people walking funny and equipment etc. And they do have to have a temperament that enjoys meeting and greeting. That's the part we may struggle with. She likes me, I'm not sure about everyone else. But there's no pressure. If either one of us doesn't like it then we'll find a new activity to do together.
And it's definitely not too late! They have to be a year old before they can even be evaluated!
I love that you can put a therapy dog title on your dog.
That's really cool. Maggie wants all the titles! Maybe we will like it.
I'm honestly worried more about me than her. I find interacting with strangers to be so difficult.
In this case, it's all about the dog. You're just a handler, lol.
True. But watching the videos I'm worried that I'm going to have to make small talk with strangers. As long as they just want to talk about Maggie it would be fine... I read a facebook meme that said, "Introverts don't make friends, they get adopted by extroverts." I find that to be a true saying!
I promise you that you will only have to talk about Maggie. I've been a visitor in family members hospital rooms half a dozen times when therapy dogs came to call, and trust me, nobody is interested in talking to the handler about anything else.
That's very reassuring. Maggie is getting so good at leaning against a leg or putting her head in a nice lap for some ear scratches. She is really delightful.
One of my very favorite blogs ever, by Finnegan's mom Cheryl, about Finn's experiences as a reading dog. You will love this, I guarantee it!
My heart. Those special kids, and that special Finn. You're right. I would absolutely love to do that.
Thank you Stacy (and everyone else) for your replies. What I meant by her temperament needing some work is that she does things like puts her front legs on a counter and doesn't always move down when we say "down", or chews things like pillow cases, sofas, etc. I think her general temperament is very good, but I'm not an expert :)
She barks a lot at new male people as well. And she might jump if she hears a sudden new sound while on a walk.
I think she generally loves being around people and would enjoy making visits to various clinics if that worked out.
Is the training for therapy dogs sometimes down for a prolonged period of time without the owner? Or would that be more service dog training?
That first list of things you're talking about are behaviors not temperament. Behaviors can always be worked on. Temperament is things like fear or aggression. Things that are more hardwired into who the dog is. Barking around new men is probably your biggest issue. Most likely a fear issue. And startling isn't an issue. It's reaction after the startle. Does she startle and lunge, or startle and hide, or startle and recover. (I don't pretend to be an expert, but I did go through the handler class!)
I haven't seen a board and train specifically for therapy dogs, but I admit I haven't looked. I'm not a fan of board and train myself. I know people have good luck with them, but my dogs are my best buddies and I train them (not always very well) myself. I couldn't handle sending them away. I could barely handle leaving them with the dog sitter overnight. I was worried about them the whole time. But I also know I'm a little neurotic about the dogs!
The thing about therapy dogs is that there aren't a lot of specific behaviors that need to be trained. Good house manners and a nice dog who likes people and attention. Explore the pet partners site. Even if that's not the group you go with, there is a lot of good and interesting information available.