The qualities of a great therapy dog team

Roxy and the perfect look

Roxy and the perfect look

What qualities make a great therapy team?  Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call or write saying they have the friendliest dog that would make a perfect therapy dog. After a brief conversation they are asked things like “How does your dog exhibit friendliness…what makes you say that?” They then proceed to say their dog is so friendly she could lick you to death! “She runs up to everyone barking and wagging het tail just looking for attention.”

Or they say “my dog just loves children” so they are asked “which children?  They then say she loves their kids, grandkids, the neighbor’s kids. But is your dog calm and steady and joyful with strange children they have never met, children perhaps with an odd smell or look or affect? Around tiny babies screaming or children having meltdowns, or children with food all over them which the dog cannot approach?

When someone puts their hand at the dog’s level for a quick sniff, is the dog calmly interested or ready to gobble up the hand? Or does the dog that the owner thought was so friendly, back away and show no interest in this new person? Does the dog hide behind the owner or rush ahead to jump on the new person? Neither is the desired response.

The best candidates to become therapy dogs are the calm, patient, steady, predictable, reliable, content dogs whose handlers at the other end of the leash possesses the same qualities. The handler should have a strong understanding of their animal and be able to spot their signals of stress and be able to manage their dog in any and all circumstances.

So here are just some characteristics sought out when meeting a new team at a Free Orientation to begin their journey to becoming therapy teams with Love Dog Adventures in Las Vegas:

Traits of the Handler:

  • A genuine interest in people and not put off by therapeutic settings or behaviors
  • Good solid communication with their animal in a positive manner
  • Ability to be natural in their interactions and be non-judgmental
  • Complete intuition regarding their animal’s behaviors and signals
  • Confidence in their ability to predict their animal’s behavior under new situations
  • Patient, relaxed demeanor and ability to manage their animal while interacting with people
  • Friendly, making eye contact with people while at the time always aware of where their animal is and what he/she is doing
  • Ability to demonstrate positive, loving interactions with their animal
  • Desire to volunteer and be part of a team

Traits of the Animal:

  • A genuine interest in people and new experiences
  • A basic level of solid positive training so he/she is predictable and steady
  • Not vocal or overly excited or effusive when greeting people or other animals
  • Non-reactive to other animals at all times
  • Never show fear or aggression
  • Steady reactions to newness and demonstrate clear signals to his/her handler
  • A relaxed body and welcomes every new touch
  • Confidence in their handler and trust that any situation they are brought into will be safe
  • Not just be tolerant of handling but truly enjoy the human touch

Love Dog Adventures offers Free Orientations throughout the year in preparation for the Pet Partners Handler Workshop and Training classes. As a Pet Partner Affiliate, Love Dogs abides by the policies and procedures of the national program thus an Orientation is a great way to learn the requirements to becoming a great therapy team.

For more information about Pet Partners visit www.petpartners.org and to learn about the Love Dog program in Las Vegas go to www.lovedogadventures.org.

There will be several Free Orientations beginning in February 2016 in readiness for the Spring 2016 Workshop.