I figured out three things yesterday when I attended my first Therapy Dog Certification prep class. Most apparent was that a firm foundation in obedience is required and another was that impeccable manners are mandatory. And last, you better like to take a bath because personal grooming standards are very high.
I went to my first class with two other Golden Retrievers and my best friend Tugger, another lab. Our instructor, Shari Degan at What A Great Dog! sat us down immediately and began explaining what it means to be a Therapy Dog and what our responsibilities are.
I had done some reading and already knew there was a vast difference between being a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog. As a Therapy Dog, I will be able to volunteer and go visit people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, retirements homes and give comfort and affection to people who need someone to brighten their day or help them through a stressful time. Service Dogs are specifically trained to help people with disabilities.
Ms. Shari informed us right off that we have to take a bath and get pawdicures before going on a therapy visit. It’s a good thing I like water and don’t mind a little pampering because smelly dogs and dogs with long toenails that could scratch children, the sick, or the elderly don’t get invited to stay for visits. We also learned that we will most always be working as part of a team when going on visits and that most visits would last no more than an hour or so. I’m a social kind of guy and will have to remember that therapy dogs must remain two feet from each other at all times. We worked on the appropriate way to approach new friends and how to ask to visit. We were introduced to the wheelchair and the walker. Our ongoing training is going to include a lot of practice with handling distractions, learning to avoid dangerous situations, and interacting with people.
If your life has been touched by a Therapy Dog or you have Therapy Dog experience, please “Meet me Offleash” and share your story. Woof!
Own Your Woof®