Therapy Dog Training – Week 3

| February 22, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Sugar Kane giving us her "no more paparazzi" face!

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I am working on getting our girl Sugar Kane registered as a therapy dog through the Delta Society and I will be training our puppy DJ to get her Working Certificate (hunting) and then begin the process of getting her Junior Hunter title. What are you going to do to begin live the Retriever Life? It’s more than a game of fetch! It’s time to get your retriever involved in the 2012 Retriever Life New Year’s Revolution.

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We have set up a special section of our Retriever Life Forum just for the 2012 Retriever Life New Year’s Revolution Challenge where you can tell us about what you new challenge you are taking on with your retriever. So go for it!

Baby Steps

As I continue my adventure of training our girl, Sugar Kane, to become a therapy dog, I am happy to report that we are making great progress. This week’s training focused on the Delta Society Pet Partners Team evaluation process. Our Pet Partners trainer, Christi Dudzik of Healing Paws, starts the class of by having us go through a number of hands-on (or “paws-on”, as the case may be) exercises with our dogs. At the first exercise station, we practice the sit on command, down on command, and stay in place exercises.

Sugar Kane and I have been working on these exercises and she is making great progress considering she only knew how to strike an awesome show pose (aka “stand”) just a couple of weeks ago. Sugar Kane is not yet to the point where she lines up right by my side; she still creeps around me a bit to see where a treat might be (she is a Labrador after all!). I am pleased that after only seven to ten minutes a day of training, Sugar Kane sits and downs on command and will generally stay when I put some distance between us. Our training sessions consist of a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes at night. Sugar Kane is so excited to do the exercises because I make them fun, short, and I stop before she gets bored.

At one station we started working on tricks. Tricks are not part of the Pet Partner Team evaluation but Christi said they make excellent ice breakers with people and even the most simple tricks like sit and down can impress many people. Christi taught us how to teach our dogs to “take a bow”. Sugar Kane loves to practice new tricks as it means lots of treats! Sugar Kane is catching on but sometimes I think she plays dumb just to get more treats out of me! Sugar Kane’s dad, Zeus, picked up the “take a bow” trick on his own and he will usually take a bow to the judge just before his final go around when he is in the show ring. So I am confident that Sugar Kane will be great at the “take a bow” trick in the near future!

Next we practiced getting up on a chair. Sugar Kane has improved a lot since last week. She can now get up on the chair and almost turns around without assistance. Getting up on the chair can be a great help for people that are bedridden and want to meet your dog. The chair brings the dog up to the person’s level. Although this is not part of the Pet Partner Team evaluation, it is a great skill to have in live visits.

By far the most challenging exercise of the night was what I call the “Labrador minefield”! It is an assortment of cool toys and dog treats spread out on the floor. The handler and the dog must navigate this course without the dog going after the items. Christi explains that it is ok for the dog to acknowledge that there is something interesting on the floor but a “leave it” or “not now” command should be enough for the dog to continue on through the course. She said we should think about the items not as tempting dog treats or toys but as things that could be potentially harmful to your dog. Imagine a spill of hazardous material at a hospital. This exercise is definitely a test of handler/dog control.

The Delta Society Pet Partner Evaluation

To kick things off, Christi showed us a video of a Pet Partner Team evaluation. Watching the video really helped us get to know the process and it highlighted areas where I might need to focus in my training (sit/down/stay on a long lead). We then got a great live demo of the Pet Partner Team evaluation. We were part of the demo acting as patients in a facility. I got to be part of the group greeting and I was in a wheelchair. The demo Labrador performed flawlessly and her handler was really good at making certain her dog was under control and protected from getting hurt by anything like a wheelchair. It was a very cool experience and gave me some pointers on how to allow my Sugar Kane to interact with folks while making sure that she is safe.

The Delta Society Pet Partner Evaluation tests the prospective Pet Partner team in two parts:

  • Pet Partners Skills Test (PPST) – this portion of the evaluation demonstrates basic control of the dog and interactions with the evaluator, assistants and the testing environment.
  • Pet Partners Aptitude Test – The second part of the evaluation is a a simulation of an actual site visit where you and your dog encounter things like unruly patients, wheelchairs, excited patients, and group hugs. You and your dog must be steady and not exhibit excessive stress. As a handler you must be seen as proactive in your interactions as well as demonstrate your role as your dog’s advocate. Fun, fun, fun!

Wrap Up

This week gave us a good overview of what we can expect during the Pet Partner Team evaluation. As a result, I am cautiously optimistic about our prospects but I am going to back that up with our daily training exercises to make sure that we are ready to face the evaluation.

More next week!

Related Blog Posts:

2012 New Year’s Revolution Blog


Category : 2012 New Year's Revolution, Blog

About the Author ()

Hi, I am Toni Leitão! I am one of the people who came up with this crazy idea for Retriever Life. Retrievers are my life and passion. Oh and I like long walks in the park (especially in the rain) and watching a movie with my Labrador "pillow".

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