Therapy Dog Training Weeks 5 & 6

| April 10, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Some highlights from our practice Pet Partner Team Evaluation

I know, I know! I have been slacking on my blog posts! Well I am back on track. I wanted to bring you up to date on my quest to train my very first registered therapy dog through The Delta Society, now known as Pet Partners. It has been an adventure so far. I have had to change dogs – I started with Bica, who proved to be a little bit too enthusiastic about life for my first run through the class. I plan on getting her ready for a therapy dog in the future, however. Then there was Sugar Kane who came into season right in the heart of the class. She is a stellar student and I will definitely take her to the next available Pet Partners Team Evaluation as I think that she is ready to go. I finally ended up with Zeus as my training partner. Zeus was made to do this kind of work. His experience in the show ring and at hunt tests has exposed him to all shapes and sizes of people and their dogs. Zeus is very well traveled and is oblivious to things like elevators, different floor coverings, and noises. He is used to being poked and prodded and is always open to anyone who wants to rub his belly. Needless to say, having Zeus at class with me allowed me to totally concentrate on what I was doing because he already knew what was expected of him!

So as we went into weeks five and six at Christi Dudzik’s Healing Paws facility, the class was focused on preparing us for the Pet Partners Team Evaluation. We continued to work on the basics of:

Skills Exercises:

  • Accepting a friendly stranger
  • Accepting petting
  • Appearance and grooming (of the dog!)
  • Out for a walk
  • Walk through a crowd
  • Reaction to distractions (loud noise)
  • Sit on command
  • Down on command
  • Stay in place (handler 10 feet away, dog in sit or down)
  • Come when called
  • Reaction to neutral dog

Aptitude Exercises:

  • Overall examination (examiner touches dog from head to toe)
  • Clumsy petting (think over exuberant type of petting)
  • Restraining hug
  • Staggering/Gesturing prior to greeting
  • Angry yelling
  • Bumped from behind
  • Crowded and petted by the crowd
  • Leave it (treat or toy on the ground – a tough one for retrievers!)
  • Offer of a treat
  • Overall assessment – proactive or reactive

Zeus had no problem with any of the exercises, except for the “leave it” exercise which was tough for any red-blooded retriever! One of the key things that Christi stresses throughout the class is that we need to be our dog’s best advocate. That means that making sure that our dog is safe and secure at all times is critical to our relationship with the animal. Advocacy goes beyond the context of the therapy team visit to all aspects of our lives. So we learned about signs of stress in our dogs like yawning, panting, not taking treats, etc. We can use these signs to help us evaluate whether or not to stay in a given spot with our dog. Our dogs will tell us it is time to go. We just need to learn how to listen to them!

I also learned that getting down at Zeus’ level and giving him support, both physical and emotional, puts me in a better position to maintain control of him as well as taking a proactive stance on ensuring Zeus’ safety. Lots to learn, but most of it becomes common sense with all of the practice that Christi puts us through.

Week six was our practice evaluation. Everyone was well prepared for the evaluation and the point was to make sure that we had “all of our ducks in a row”, so to speak. Well, I obviously was not totally prepared as I did not have my paperwork or my brush with me when I arrived at Healing Paws. Now we have plenty of dog brushes at our house but Pet Partners does not want you to have one like that. They want a soft bristled brush that will not hurt your dog if someone happens to brush a little hard. I need to go shopping!

Zeus performed awesome throughout the evaluation. He was tired from a day of hunt training so he just went through the paces. I think he was dreaming of laying on the couch with Lorraine and me. All I need to do now is complete my paperwork, get Zeus a health clearance from my vet, and get a new brush. We are supposed to treat the Pet Partner Team Evaluation as a real therapy team visit so our dogs are to be groomed and bathed and we are supposed to dress appropriately (business casual). I assumed they don’t mean Microsoft business casual (where I used to work) which is a Microsoft t-shirt and jeans!

Our Pet Partner Team Evaluation is scheduled for April 28th at 2:45pm. We are excited and hopefully we will have a newly minted therapy dog, then I can blog about the next step in the process – our first Pet Partner visit.

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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