Monday, December 7, 2015

Therapy Dog Training

As I stated in my previous post: "I decided to get back into blogging because I couldn't find any blogs about the journey to become a therapy dog. Buster and I are about to begin that journey." So here is the plan for the journey to make Buster a therapy dog. 

(*Note: I often say "we" and "us". It's a habit of speaking for both myself and Buster that's just stuck.)
 
Buster and I tried Agility training. It was fun and we might have kept up with it if PTA school hadn't got in the way. It just wasn't possible to have anything scheduled outside of school. Upon reflection, I don't know if Buster truly enjoyed it.

 This is Buster's best run during agility.

As I get close to graduation and have seen therapy dog visits during my last clinic in a nursing home, I've decided to pursue therapy dog training. I kept saying I'd do it "when he gets older and slows down" but why not now?

Thankfully I was crazy about getting certificates when we took obedience classes the first time around in 2013/2014 and he got Canine Good Citizen certified.
AKC CGC certified
 I think we've decided to get certified with Love on a Leash which has a local chapter (Winston Salem, NC). I went to a therapy dog event with my godson where he read to a dog at a library and they recommended LoaL. It helps that their requirements are more lenient than Therapy Dog's International. ;-)

On  12/2/15 Buster joined me at my clinical at a nursing home for a visit. He was well behaved in the therapy room so I took him on a tour to visit some patients. He did very well and showed no fear. He tolerated people coming at him from all directions, including behind, and tolerated patients grabbing at his face. Two patients patted their laps, asking my 60 lb dog to sit in their lap. Luckily he knows not to get in laps. I was so pleased with his visit and his good behavior. I contacted his old trainer as soon as I got home and said "Let's fast track this!"

Here are our steps to becoming a therapy dog:
  1. Beginner Obedience
  2. Intermediate Obedience
  3. Advanced Obedience
  4. Canine Good Citizen test
  5. Therapy Dog Class
  6. Therapy Dog test
We have completed steps #1-4 already, but I decided to have Buster re-take his Advanced Obedience class to refresh his obedience with distractions in busy places and around other dogs. Because we took all our obedience classes through Petsmart, we can retake any of the classes again for free. We had to miss the first class last night due to a prior commitment, but we will be there for the other 5 weeks and finish 1/17/16. Had I gotten Buster as a puppy (he was 2 when I adopted him) we would have taken a puppy obedience class before beginner obedience. Buster came to me already knowing 'sit' and 'shake'.

For #5 & #6, if Petsmart offers the therapy dog class we'll take it there because I love our trainer (Dulcey Trimble at Petsmart on Lawndale in Greensboro, NC) otherwise we'll go to the Winston Salem Dog Training Club. They are the home of a Therapy Dog International Chapter so they might require you become TDI certified. We'll find out!

So Buster and I are looking forward to him following in his mom's footsteps and being a therapist. Hopefully we'll be both certified/licensed therapists with jobs by Spring 2016!

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