Brian and I think Margarita would make a great Therapy Dog, but we were unsure of the requirements, OR if Rita would truly make a good candidate for this type of work.
Last night we took her to a Therapy Dog workshop at WonderDogs in Berlin, NJ, where we have taken both Limoncello and Hooch for obedience training when they were young pups. (Click HERE to see Limoncello’s graduation from Puppy Head Start class at WonderDogs, click HERE to see Hooch’s graduation from Puppy Head Start class, and click HERE to see Hooch’s graduation from the Terrible Teens class at WonderDogs!)
Jenny and Rita getting ready to start the first activity at the Therapy Dog Workshop:
Margarita lovers her “place” mat, and was a well-behaved, attentive student:
The instructor, Judith Azaren, focused on a variety of skills, including:
- Greeting/Disengaging on cue
- Working calmly around other dogs
- Handler engagement techniques
- Moving exercises
- Distraction work including dogs, people, wheelchair, walker, etc
- Physical handling
- Stress signals
We feel as though Margarita did very well for her first time being presented with the tasks that were covered in this workshop.
Margarita quickly learned to look at me to earn a reward when she discovers staged piles of treats on the floor. Therapy dogs come across many items on a floor, such as medication/pills accidentally dropped on the floor. It is imperative that the dogs look to the handler rather than ingest what they find:
Here is Margarita weaving past other dogs, and not engaging:
Rita practiced loose-leash walking:
Margarita did well working around distractions such as crutches, wheel chairs, walkers, and a vacuum cleaner:
Margarita picked up on the “touch” game very quickly! Each time she touched my hand with her snout, she earned a treat. That was a fun game for her!
Here she is working on “touch” while not engaging with other dogs as they walk by:
Working on “touch:”
We have already contacted several Therapy Pet Registering organizations in order to start the process of Margarita’s evaluation and registration. We are hoping that with some additional training and practice, we will be able to have Margarita certified as a Therapy Dog so that she can help provide affection and comfort to those in need!
Do you think your dog or pet may be a good candidate for becoming a Therapy Dog? Each organization has different requirements, so be sure to do your research. Here are some of the most well-known for therapy pets (click on the names below to be directed to the organizations’ website):