There are twenty three elements teams must pass to become Pet Partners. These include Skills and Aptitude elements, far more than the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizenship test requires.
One of the most crucial commands every Pet Partner must have is the Down. They need to have a strong, solid Down and then the Stay so they can position themselves on the floor, beds and laps for smaller dogs or anywhere they need to squeeze into place for easy petting and handling.
When in Reading programs the dogs need to be Down and Stay on their Place for long periods of time while children read to them and cuddle them. Whether the dog is large or small sudden movement can be distracting, scary and dangerous.
When working with adults or children with challenges, the sudden movement of the dog, even lifting up of his head, can cause stress in the client, fear and often an accident.
Unsteady hands on a dog can frighten the dog and it is the handler’s responsibility to make sure the dog is confident and comfortable and in a position whereby any client with any limitation can reach out and touch.
Large dog handlers are taught to always have their dog’s head turned away or cupped in their hands. They learn how to position their own hands to keep their dog in a steady down so they can be the first to anticipate movement should it occur.
For smaller dogs the handler needs to know their dog will Down on their blanket or towel on a bed or lap and stay there.
And when the dog needs to be out of the way for people rushing down hallways or an emergency going by, the steady Down will ensure everyone’s safety.
So don’t overlook this very basic but critical skill your dog needs to become an effective therapy dog.