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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi All, I've scoured through the threads here for some time, it's been so useful while we have been raising our now 2.5 year old golden girl! We now have a couple issues that I just can't find advice for on our own so I thought I would post. We are preparing Oakley to take the TDI test in the next 6 months or so. That was our hope at least. :)

She has been through all levels of obedience, walks well on a leash, responds to the heel command, no jumping and just melts around children and all adults! She's a big softy! We know she'd be a great therapy dog and get a lot of joy from it...as would we!

We live in a very walkable community in the city. The only times we're in the car are for road trips, distant errands, doggy daycare, or the park. All very exciting things! We recently went to Home Depot to test her and she acted like a maniac for the first 3-5 minutes. Pulling every which way!! No jumping though. She did calm down after she realized that it wasn't all fun and games and I had treats there to focus her attention on commands like sit, down, stay. It was a bit of an ah-ha moment, that maybe she associates the car with only fun things and thought Home Depot was a dog park?! :grin2: In terms of testing her, I just know she'll fail if she walks into a test facility she's never been to and acts like that right off the bat.

Our other struggle as we prepare for the test is leaving her with a handler while we leave the room. Oakley has zero separation anxiety while we work all day but the moment we're in a new situation and myself or my husband leave, she gets very concerned. She’ll bark on occasion but mostly whine loudly and reach her neck to see where you went. I’m guessing while we’re testing, she’ll bark and/or whine and that’ll fail us. Does anyone have any tips on how to ensure she’d be OK with a stranger holding her? We don’t really have people around that we can test with.

She really is a great dog, but her excited entry to new situations and trouble being left with a handler are two things that she will have issues with during the test. Side note: We have started putting a bandana on her when we are "training" so hopefully she'll associate that with only the best behavior.

Is there any advice from current or future therapy dog owners for us?? Should we try the test and see how it goes or does she sound like an automatic failure?

Thanks everyone in advance!!
 

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Puddles
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Every group has a different need so all I can tell you about is about the group I was apart of... Paws Across Texas.

Overexcitement or whining would be an automatic fail. We were required to take an obedience test and they did huge distractions like people dressing up as clowns, creepy people and opening umbrellas during the exercises.

My group did visits to hospitals, children hospitals, rehab centers, special needs classes and rest homes. We had to ride in full elevators loaded with dogs and people. They did not allow sniffing people or the other dogs. Lots of older people have very thin skin so nails must be really, really short. Baths were required within 24 hrs prior to a visit.

The dogs needed to be calm no matter what happens, bed pans being dropped to emergency situations where things can get very chaotic. If something happens where you need to hand your dogs leash to a fellow therapy person so you can help, they must be quiet and calm. You also need to treat with something like cheerios as older people sometimes put the treats in their mouths. Work on the leave it as you don't want them eating anything off the floor, could be medications.

If your dog is overreactive with the stimulations you need to spend more time exposing her to more situations. We used to sit outside of Starbucks on Sat. mornings and require them to sit with a crowd of people touching her. We also asked for a down when small children approached.
We did home depot in the back where the pipes and lumber was and practiced long downs and sits. I could see her through the shelves and the employees were great about helping.. they would let me know if she moved.
Take them to the local hardware store, tractor supply or sit in a beauty shop (with their permission) and ask for a quiet behavior. We rode buses and sat in the train station. Start outside on a bench until you can be inside with calm behavior.
Some dogs just handle this better than others naturally but if you work at it you can get the controlled behavior. Teach them to give a paw, kids love this :)
Good luck and keep us posted with the training!

Here's a good video on how to use the leave it command to avoid the over excitement around people and pets.
 

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I had at least one therapy dog in my house for the past 40 years. My current therapy dog, Gracie, is 13 years old and is nearing "retirement" as she is going blind and has difficulty with stairs due to arthritis now (we switched to a reading buddy program about 6 months ago so she would not have to do stairs any more). My original intent was to train Bailey as a therapy dog and have him at the nursing home where I had worked with Gracie and other dogs for the past 30 plus years. However Bailey is nowhere near ready to work as a therapy dog. He is still, at the age of 2, too immature for it.
That having been said dogs are ready to work as therapy dogs at different ages. All develop differently. My first therapy dog, Shannon, became a therapy dog at 8 months of age. This was over 40 years ago and there were few, if any, formal programs. I was working as a psychologist with teens in residential treatment and I began to take Shannon to work with me. She was an extraordinary therapy dog. Some dogs are born to it.
I have had other dogs which have not been ready until they have been well over 2 years of age. Gracie started when she was about 3. She was a rescue and had some separation anxiety issues after we got her (she was a Hurricane Katrina rescue from NOLA) and it took some time to work thru those.
So, no your dog is not hopeless but you will need to spend some time working on things before you sign up for the TDI test.
First of all, you haven't mentioned if you have taken the CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test. I would suggest before you even consider registering to take the TDI test you sign up for this. I have not had a dog certified with TDI for a while but as I recall they want your dog to have taken that test as well as basic and, I believe, advanced obedience classes. They also offer a class which will help you prepare for the TDI test.
I cannot evaluate your dog online but I can tell you that TDI will do so when you apply to take a class with them. They can help you determine what areas you will need to work on with your dog in order to pass their test and be sucsessfully certified as a therapy thru them. I would definitely contact them and ask about classes. Most organizations which offer therapy dog certification will offer classes to train for their tests. It is to their advantage to do so as a dog which is successful makes a good therapy dog.
For me, when I had difficulty with Gracie and the portion of the test where she needed to be left with a stranger I began to practice that. It was at a time when I used to go to the local dog park and I would frequently ask other "dog parents" to hold Gracie's leash while I walked away. Most were more than happy to do this when they understood my reason for doing it. I would say that it took about a month of regular practice before Gracie realized that I always came back and nothing bad happened while I was gone.
So my suggestion is to contact the organization where you want your dog certified and ask about their requirements for certification as well as any classes available. Most are more than willing to assist you. Best wishes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
puddles everywhere, thank you so much for your quick reply! This is all great stuff. Oakley is great with loud noises and crowds of people touching her. Luckily living in the city these are things we exposed her to without even thinking of it. We probably have a fire truck go by at least once a walk and she doesn't flinch!
I wouldn't want her to be overly excited going into a hospital, school, nursing home situation, that's for sure. I love your idea of sitting outside on a bench first. With every new store/bank/coffee shop we go to, I'll practice ensuring that she's completely calm before getting the reward of entering. As I just experience last weekend, no treat could have pull her out of her excited state, she was too far gone. I'll give it a try and hopefully with a several exposures, she'll start to realize it's nothing to get worked up about! I also love the idea of a down sits at a store like Home Depot. We'll give that a go... we'll need some luck! :)

Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
G-bear, thank you so much! I'm impressed with all your dogs successes and boy are they cute! I'm glad Oakley isn't hopeless, but I know there's some more work and maturing to happen yet! We did advance through and graduate our advanced obedience classes which instilled in us drills for the CGC but we never got around to actually taking the CGC test. I never thought to see if TDI offered classes, that would be a great help and I will research that! Thank you for that suggestion. I also love the idea of dog parents holding on to your dog as you stepped away. Would you have them treat your dog while you went out of sight if your dog was behaving properly? Or did just exposing Gracie to the fact that you always come back work well on it's own?
 

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The route I've taken with both of my dogs that have been certified for therapy work is: good manners obedience training, CGC training and test, lots of socialization, therapy dog training class (which provided an extensive socialization checklist of people, animals and places to visit and experience), then therapy dog test. A training class will give you suggestions on your challenge areas and an opportunity to practice and work on those challenges. A good training class will teach you how to anticipate challenges for your dog and how to manage them.

It's not unusual for a dog to need some time for acclimation in strange surroundings. The testing organization should provide for a chance to acclimate before starting an evaluation.
 

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Thanks, theZ's! That sounds like a good path to go. I found a local company that has a specific Therapy Dog training class so I think we'll try that out to really see if there is anything other than her eagerness to work on and then we can work on it from there. I'll also contact the facility where our testing takes place and get a better idea of how dogs enter and begin the test, they may have some more insight into acclimation and all that. Appreciate your advice!
 

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She still might be too young - some goldens 2 1/2 is still very puppy.

My Sailor is now 3 1/2, did pass her CGC test at 12 months - I have no idea why she decided to actually behave during that test, but she did! I tried to make her a show dog, but it was too boring for her, even obedience at times was too boring. At 3 1/2, we are starting agility - and she loves it! But I know at this time, she would not be a good therapy dog, calm most of the time, but gets over excited and demanding when she wants to do something else. Meanwhile, my soon to be 2 year old male - he would be so calm for therapy. Just sits still and loves being loved no matter where he is, and has been that way since he was under a year.

The classes we have here, not sure if they are TDI - but we need to get our CGC before being certified for therapy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks, cubbysan! The picture of your puppies is too cute. You could be right, she may just have too much puppy left in her still. She can be quite the goof ball, and we do love that! The doggy daycare that we send her to weekly does agility with the dogs during the day, I've been meaning to start to learn myself (or my husband) so that we can try that with her. I think she'd love doing that more often, good idea! We'll try to work with her but you're right she just may need extra time to grow out of her "new places" excitement stage. Thanks, again!
 

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I can totally understand how excited you are. Your doggie will is going to be a therapy dog.

It really does a good job.

However, as you worried, the dog's socialization still needs to improve since the therapy dog will be used to different places and meet many different people.

So you need to take them to access the public places step by step, firstly, maybe some dog park, pet stores to let them learn to contact with other animals, then bring them to the shopping mall, schools to meet more people, finally, try to take them to some common workplace of the therapy dog, for example, nursing home, retirement homes to adapt to such environment.

Besides, you also need to take care of their sleep regulations since it will be required to sleep with the patients.
 
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