The Not Ready score in the Pet Partner evaluation is not the end for a potential therapy team, but can be the beginning! Information is so often the key to a team’s success. Understanding why the team received a Not Ready can give the team direction as to what to continue to work on.
While it is of course disappointing, take it as inspiration to work on the required skills at both ends of the leash. So often it is the handler who needs to calm down as the test experience can be difficult for them and that insecurity or fear travels down the leash. They become impatient or frustrated with their animal and that only adds to the stress level and it may go downhill from there. Rather take a break, continue to work with your animal and be very honest about what you can expect from your animal…and yourself!
If the problems that led to a Not Ready were part of the Skills Test, you now know what to continue practicing – perhaps it was the walking on the loose leash or not reacting to the neutral dog or not following certain directions / commands such as Down and Stay.
If the problem occurred during the Aptitude portion of the test, you have to be brutally honest with yourself about your animal‘s suitability or desire to do this kind of work. If your animal does not want to be touched or handled all over, does not seem interested in the new people he/she is meeting, displays clusters of stress signals, perhaps this is not for you. And perhaps it is the Handler end of the leash that has difficulty interacting with new people and being proactive not reactive in situations.
We have had several Not Ready teams in the Love Dog program that went on to become stellar therapy volunteers. And of course a few did not continue on but found other activities to do with their animal which the pet enjoyed much more. One of our Not Ready teams went on to become agility champions and another excels at Rally Obedience.
And some realize that while their pet may not be cut out for volunteering with the public, they continue on as non-animal volunteers and have so much to contribute.