How did you get started in Therapy work? - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 12:49 PM Thread Starter
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Question How did you get started in Therapy work?

I was wondering how everyone got their start in Therapy work, what are the challanges in the training, in the actual work itself. And how would you recommend people interested get started?

Sparkles now at the bridge, Boots at the bridge and Tink my very special heart dog.
Bridge dogs, Tuffy, Blueboy, Pudge, Shasta, Maddie, Broker, Jet, Baily, Reva, Sparkle and Boots sweet boy we are missing you so.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 02:12 PM
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Max and I were walking at the park one day. He was less than 2 years old at the time, so it was still interesting to walk in public with him. We came upon an older couple sitting on one of the benches, resting. The gentleman called us over, he wanted to pet Max. He told me all about his dogs, how he once had 3 goldens, while his wife petted Max and got kisses. I watched my Monster Boy turn into a gentle, sweet, angel of a dog with them. They said they were ready to start walking again, so we started off with them. Max went between them, the gentleman rested his hand on Max's head, and they walked that way till the next bench.

This was the same monster boy who had been pulling me around the park!

I knew then that he was supposed to do this - so we started looking for a local group and soon found one that was recruiting members. It's been more than two years and it still amazes me to see that transformation in him - and to watch the older people light up when they see him coming.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 02:13 PM
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We started out visiting a friend in the nursing home. They require your dogs health record, for visits. We did this for about a year and I could see the joy Gunner gave to everyone he visited. Plus, he really loves it. I decided that we should try to get certified. I looked up Therapy Dogs Inc. and got a phone number of a evaluator. We went three weeks to a nursing home and passed with flying colors. I need to say that we had ready taken several obedience classes and had the Canine Good Citizen Award. It's one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Good luck!

GUNNER 08-30-08 ATD, CGC (MyCascadeGoldens) Michigan - HONEY 01-11-11 (Harborview Goldens) - Pennsylvania

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 02:35 PM
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My friends in my obedience club who run our CGC class and specialize in therapy work have said to me their number one suggestion (after getting your dogs CGC) is to find a mentor who can help you learn the ins and outs. I bet someone in your local obedience club could get you started. The amazing stories these people have of their dogs therapy work always bring tears to my eyes. Good luck!

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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 03:58 PM Thread Starter
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My daughters 4-H leader has been training and working with service dogs for about 20 years she started when she was in 4-H. She has it set up for club members with appropriate manners and temperment, them and their dogs lol,to go with her one visit a month to a local nursing home. My daughters golden Sparkles is a worry sort and we didn't think she would do that well at and my sons dog is way to reactive so we had not been participating.

Tinks mom is a certified therapy dog with TDI and we picked carefully for a middle of the road temperment. My daughter senior project was originally going to be raising a assistance dog with the organization our club works with but now the puppy raisers are only getting them for about 6 months instead of 18 due to a new program they are trying. So instead she is going to train with my help Tink for first her CGC then to go for a certified team.

Last week we got to take Tink to the nursering home with our leader, It was our Halloween visit so everyone dressed in costumes, including the dogs. Tink strutted in like she owned the place she was calm and happy. And she was wearing a cat costume too. She didn't even mind the automatic front doors. It was just after dinner and the hall was filled with walkers and wheelchairs and we had to weave down the hall to another one to where we would start. Tink acted like she had done it a hundred times. If someone held out a hand she would go to them, otherwise she left them along without being asked. The manager actually asked us three, my daughter tink and I to be the one to go back to another section. It is actually the locked ward.

My daughter is very shy and it was hard at first for her to talk but I was never so proud of her or Tink. They both behaved beautifully. Tink never jerked, jumped or even mouthed. She just sat there and let them pet her for however long they wanted. I was surprised as she is a busy pup. I told her breeder about her trip and she said that is exactly what her Mom did when she first took her in at 8 months.

We are planning on going every month with the club to the nursing home as long as she is happy, working her further on her obedience the club meets weekly all year. The plan is to for them to take the CGC in the spring and thru her senior year next year for her to try and get set up with an evaluator. Sadly the TDI represenative just moved she was local but we did find one a few hours south.

Sparkles now at the bridge, Boots at the bridge and Tink my very special heart dog.
Bridge dogs, Tuffy, Blueboy, Pudge, Shasta, Maddie, Broker, Jet, Baily, Reva, Sparkle and Boots sweet boy we are missing you so.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 10:24 PM
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My history with Coal and hopes for Mercy

I wrote up a post about my entire Therapy dog history and experience that took over an hour to type and I lost it all! Oh man!!! Ugggh!

I will have to write a condensed version.

I first tried out for therapy work with Coal when he was 2 years old in 1998. He got kicked out of all three of the therapy dog organizations we tried to take part in due to his being too energetic.

When Coal calmed down at 6 years of age in 2002, I tried again.

I got back into one of the groups I got kicked out of, Pets on Wheels of Prince George's County. We visited an Assisted Living place through Pets on Wheels from 2002-2006.

I also go Coal tested for the Delta Pet Partners program in 2003 and we passed. We were part of a local group, National Capital Therapy Dogs (NCTD) that was a local affiliate of the Delta Society Delta Society Pet Partners Program. We tried visiting John Hopkins Children's House, but Coal scratched a client and I had to change to a facility where there were less frail people. We got to visit with at risk special needs teenagers at Sheppard Pratt mental health hospital in Ellicott City. Coal did great there. After two more years, Coal got recertified and we got to change facilities and visit Holy Cross Hospital's pediatric ward. I loved how one time a cute little girl petted Coal from inside her crib.

In the meantime, I decided to get Coal his TDI. Since there was no local TDI affiliate, I called around different hospitals until I found out that Walter Reed was having a special group visit them. This group was actually part of a larger therapy dog organization in the area, People Animals Love (PAL), which happened to be one of the organizations I tried Coal out in but got kicked out of when he was 2 years old. They welcomed people who had Delta and/or TDI credentials even without having to join PAL. We got to visit Walter Reed once and only once. It was so cool while it lasted. I felt good as soldiers pet Coal in the hallway. After having such a wonderful time visiting including the pediatric ward where Coal gently licked a baby hooked up to tubes as it was held out to him, tragedy struck. Coal lunged at a Saint Bernard in the hall outside the psychiatric ward. I usually managed to keep Coal's aggression under control around large dogs, but giant breeds were more of a problem. Even after I explained that only Giant breeds (not large) were harder to control Coal around, they thought it would be all large dogs 45 pounds and over, and gave me the boot, but not until after we got to finish our visit. Coal and I visited wounded Iraq war veterans, some who were missing their limbs.

Anyway, I then got Coal into Pets on Wheels of Anne Arundel County and visited North Arundel Hospital which later became University of Maryland Medical Center. One memoriable moment was on Christmas Eve 2004 when a woman who was obviously grieving over a sick loved one threw her arms around Coal and sobbed. Coal was dressed as Santa. It was so sweet seeing how Santa Coal gave comfort to this hurting soul. He also comforted children in the pediatric ward there.

Anticipating a move to Virginia from Maryland when I got married I even joined Pets on Wheels of Fairfax County and visited a nursing home in Mount Vernon Virginia.

Since Peter owned a condo and since we could not find a house we could afford (this was the height of the housing bubble in 2006) I had to have Coal cared for for over year. By the time we found a home and moved in, it was time to retire Coal from therapy service. I have not done any therapy work since I got married.

Anyway, now I am raising and training Mercy to becomming a therapy dog. I have been working on building the right foundation, taking her to lots of classes. I am also adamant about Mercy not having dog aggression, since I experienced it so much with Coal. Coal's opportunites to visit with other dogs were limted due to his dog aggression. This all the more reason why I socialized Mercy with puppies so much as you might have seen in pictures I have shared. I am currently attending a CGC prep course and plan for Mercy to get tested at 9 months old. When Mercy turns 1, I plan to get her tested for TDI. Hopefully, I will find a place where I can use those credentials. There are no Delta Society Pet Partners local groups where I live now. In 2003 the same group in PAL that visited Walter Reed also visited Inova Fairfax hospital. I wonder if they are still doing that. I would also like to become part of Manassas Therapy Dogs, which is a local affiliate of Therapy Dogs Inc. I have my eyes on a beautiful Assisted Living Facility that I would like to visit in Manassas. I hope to visit special needs children and at risk youths as well. I also hope to get into a READ program at the library. I was going through training for READ shortly before I got married through NCTD. I had to give up on that endeavor when I got married. Peggy Dobbins, who screens for TDI in my area is part of the local READ program in Prince William County.

Anyway, I look forward to updating you on Mercy's milestones and progress as well as share with you pictures of her future Therapy Dog Visits.

Okay, I have spent 45 minutes on this version! Not quite condensed, but rather of rewrite of the major highlights, while leaving out the details I wrote in the last version about other parts of Coal's therapy dog story.

Here is a picture of Coal at Christmas time at the Assisted Living facility he visited in Maryland.
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Eldorado's-Fawnboro Super Glorious Miracle CGCA TDInc
Birthdate: February 5th 2012

Gotcha Day: March 30th 2012

Mercy's on

Last edited by MercyMom; 10-18-2012 at 10:36 PM.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-18-2012, 11:23 PM
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In 2003 my mom had a stroke she was in the hospital. By the second day she was no longer talking to us I wasnt sure why but my mom was a HUGE animal lover the third day I took Mikado my American Pit Bul Terrier into see her. See reached out petted him and said "Mikado I cant wake up but I love you". Those were the last words she ever said. My mom died the next morning. I week later I was reading teh newpaper and saw an add saying the 4-H was giving classes for dogs to become Therapy dogs. I signed Mikado and I up for it. Mikado had never been to a class I had not trained him anything but I took him to class and he did everything I asked for. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was the first APBT to take the class in these parts. When we would go out walking if he saw a person in a wheelchair or one using a walker he was make a bee line for that person and then sit there to be petted. He would get just excited when I pulled into a nursing home. He gave so much joy to those people. I just had to do it with BaWaaJige too. SO far Jige and I have not done a good job of stopping at the nursing homes but I will plan our trips to town better with winter coming so he gets to the nursing home at least 2x a month.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-19-2012, 11:58 AM
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I realized that Penny would be great for therapy work, when I realized how much therapy she gave to my family and me when my brother was deployed to Iraq. So I went online, found Therapy Dogs International, found a test date, Penny passed with flying colors! We started in a local assisted living facility, and have increased to a hospital, other nursing homes, a youth correction center, and even a rehabilitation facility. I switched over to Therapy Dogs Inc., because I like their organization better. When Penny was five, she was diagnosed with cancer. So I knew she could relate to a lot of people who have to stay in the hospital for various procedures. That is when I started taking her into the hospital. I have her therapy dog story, and cancer story on this thread, for those who want to read more:
(it is long)
(Penny's Story)

Honestly, I think most goldens could do therapy work. There is a reason why they are popular for service dogs, and family dogs. They are so willing to please, and are so focused on people. Also, a person could accidently step on my dogs, and I know my dogs would NEVER get aggressive. Goldens just make perfect therapy dogs!

If you are interested in doing therapy work, check out one of these three popular therapy dog organizations. I suggest to complete the CGC test first, that will give you a good idea if your dog is ready to be a therapy dog.

Lauren, Luna and Rory!

U-GCH Celebrations Over The Moon RE NAP NAJP CDX THDX CGCA CCA "Luna"
U-CH Meadowbrook Celebrations Harvest Moon "Rory"

Forever in my heart:
Penny, Duchess of the Meadows NJP NAP CD RE THDX CGC "Penny"
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-19-2012, 05:24 PM
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A number of factors lead me to get Zoe certified for therapy work. Zeke, our first Golden provided informal "therapy" to our family and anyone else who wanted it but we never formally trained him for anything past puppy obedience. After he was gone I really regretted that. My mother spent a year in a local nursing home and on my many visits there, I got to see what life is like for the residents . . . so many of them don't get much attention or affection. As Zoe went through puppy and basic obedience training she seemed like a natural for therapy work. She loves people and is really good with other dogs of all types, small to giant.

We did a CGC and therapy dog class and at about 2yrs. she got her CGC and certification by the Delta Society. In the class the dog gets training but there is also training for the handler in how to handle various situations that may arise, how to read your dog, how to anticipate problems and avoid them. Zoe was exposed to a variety of equipment - wheelchairs, crutches, canes etc. We were also given a list of things to expose her to outside of class - different walking surfaces, automatic doors, elevators, various other animals (we had a memorable visit to a local stable to meet some horses). We were also encouraged to go out in a variety of settings and Zoe seems to be at her best in the midst of events like street fairs where there are lots of people to meet and greet and lots of activities. Lacking a mentor, we have been slow to get into formal therapy visits but this summer we started weekly visits to a nursing home and it was encouraging to see that after a couple of visits there were people who recognized and were looking forward to visiting with Zoe. We're looking forward to expanding the settings for our therapy visits. I'd second the idea of getting a mentor, I think it would definitely make it easier to get going on it.

Gracie, Sunfire's Amazing Grace, CGC, CCA, Pet Partner therapy dog, 9/12/2013
Zoe, Rockwall Nantucket Breeze, BN, CGC, Delta therapy dog, 5/4/2008 - 10/28/2013
Zeke, our introduction to the world of Golden Retrievers, 6/12/1997 - 12/18/2007
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 10-21-2012, 12:09 PM
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We got Tucker as a puppy in late April. We spent a lot of time socializing him at local universities and colleges. Of as a cute little puppy he attracted a lot of attention when we walked him, but the funny thing was that as he got older, the attention didn't decrease. What we found was that as new people came to greet him, as soon as they started to pet him, their stories just came pouring out. I remember one woman who came up to us that Tucker was especially affectionate with. She knelt down and he circled around her like a cat, bringing a smile to her face. It was then she told us that she had just put down her golden. It was then that I knew that we needed to share Tucker with others, and that he was to do more than just be a family dog. I truly believe that when you have a dog that should be a therapy dog, you just know. There is something very special about them.

We have spent a lot of time in obedience classes over the years to keep his skills sharp and to keep him busy. We have a local pet therapy group that Tucker works with. They have dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, kittens, a turtle and in the past, even a miniature horse. What amazes me the most about Tucker is that he just knows when we are going on a visit. He can be so wound up before we get to the facility, but the moment we walk thru their door, a switch goes on, and he knows it is time to work.
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