Basics 101: Therapy and Service Dogs

There is a lot of confusion regarding Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs and the testing relevant to each.  We look at the differences, give advice on choosing which therapy organization to join and how to prepare your puppy or dog for this specific type of training.

Therapy Dogs are pets that owners have trained and certified to visit others.  There are many types of therapy organizations both local, national and international with specific rules and guidelines.  

When considering which pet therapy group to join pet owners should consider where they would like to visit and investigate which organization has teams there.  Often therapy organizations will take charge of a visit and not allow other organizations to visit unless a member of their group. Fortunately many visits are also run by the volunteer office of a facility which may set their own criteria and specifics regarding which organizations may visit.  Also important is reviewing the guidelines and testing procedures, along with any additional education required and fees.  

The therapy tests for most organizations consist of some basic obedience work including sit, down, 20 ft. stay and come, plus working with other therapy dogs, friendly greetings with strangers, and working with common therapy equipment including wheelchairs, walkers, four-footed canes and crutches. The test is administered by an evaluator.

The best dog for pet therapy work is one that enjoys meeting people and has basic manners so socialization and basic obedience is an important part of building a solid foundation. If the dog shows fear or aggression toward people they are not good candidates and of course if it is not enjoyable for both the human and the canine companion why do it?

Service dogs work specifically for their handler performing a task.  In the United States there is no central registry despite organizations that claim otherwise.  There are specific organizations that train dogs for service and assistance work such as The Seeing Eye, Canine Companions for Independence and many others.  The new work of service dogs also includes Psychological Service dogs which assist with PTSD symptom intervention, Seizure Alert dogs, and others. These should not be confused with Emotional Support dogs that typical have not had formal training and have come under criticism of late as some pet owners have made unsubstantiated claims.  This was addressed by the major airlines with new criteria for in cabin transport including a signed letter from a psychologist annually with their license and a complete vet exam with temperament evaluation.

The most common test used for service dogs is the Public Access test which consists of testing in public for control, temperament and behavior. The test goes beyond basic obedience and can be found here http://www.iaadp.org/iaadp-minimum-training-standards-for-public-access.html

Service dogs require steady temperament, intelligence and drive. They are often bred for this purpose and are noted for their intense connection performing service for their owners.

There are many individuals who because of their remote locations or unique individual needs may require working one-on-one with a trainer or even training their dogs themselves for therapy or service work.  There are some excellent books on this topic and when reviewing it is essential to check the credentials of the author or trainer. Some therapy dog organizations will certify a team remotely through Skype or video. 

This article was written by Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA a therapy dog evaluator for 15 years and professional certified CCPDT trainer.  Ms. Stancher was a featured speaker at the very first NJ Pet Therapy Conference at Morristown Hospital.

Pet therapy teams will often meet prior to starting their visits so that the dogs can relieve themselves but once the visit begins there is often a “two foot” rule keeping the dogs separate and focused on visiting. There are no treats allowed for the dogs while on a visit.
When visiting with children it is essential to control the visit for the safety of the dog. It is a great opportunity to share tips on dog safety and approaching a friendly dog.

Preventing Dog Bites and Having Fun During the Holidays

The holidays are fun and yet stressful for both humans and their dogs.  Even good dogs that never had a history of aggression can bite if pushed to their limits.  Here are some suggestions to stay safe this holiday season.

Prevent stress for you and your dog with regular exercise and mental challenge

When the weather turns cold and our schedules become full often the first thing to go is exercise.  This does not include letting the dog out to go potty and then allowing back in.  We are talking about a real walk with some training involved including waiting at the curb before crossing. If this is not possible move the activity inside.  You can use balance boards, pedestals and other equipment to give your dog a workout. Here is a link to Fit Paws which has an entire line of exercise equipment for you and your dog https://fitpawsusa.com You can also teach your dog tricks which require a minimum of space and helps with both obedience and mental challenge. Here is a link to the “Do More With Your Dog” program http://www.domorewithyourdog.com/trickdog/

Know the signs of stress in your dog

If your dog is to be a part of the activities make sure that he is comfortable and does not show signs of stress which includes turning away,  yawning, lip licking, stiffness, “whale eye”, and growling. It is important to know when your dog is stressed and to provide space and boundaries. https://www.care2.com/greenliving/7-subtle-signs-your-dog-is-stressed.html

Control all interactions especially with children

If your dog is comfortable greeting visitors but is a jumper wait until he is calm and then put on his leash, grab some treats and practice friendly greetings without jumping. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csuMGROvvVU

Never leave the dog alone with children and set the ground rules regarding human behavior and interaction. These might include not allowing interaction with the dog while sleeping or eating. Here are some great suggestions for setting guidelines with children. https://doggonesafe.com/To-Do-&-Not-To-Do

Better yet if your dog is not comfortable with children give them a break and provide a safe space for them where they will not be disturbed. You can add music as a noise filter, provide them with a stuffed Kong and the security of their crate. In between the festivities be sure to give them a break to go potty.

Use a gate or crate to prevent door dashing

With so any guests arriving it can be an easy opportunity for your dog to sneak out of the house.  Think about your management plan and either use gates or a crate to keep your dog from escaping.

Prevent a visit to the vet

Often well meaning guests may try to feed your dog from the table or sneak your dog a forbidden item. Here is a list of the foods that can be toxic to your dog.  Be sure to share your concerns with guests and remove your dog from where the food is both being prepared and served to avoid counter surfing. https://www.petsbest.com/blog/thanksgiving-foods-pets-shouldnt-have/

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season!

Canines Can Do® llc Modern Dog Training

Practicing Mindfulness and Teaching Your Dog to Pay Attention

Would you believe that dogs don’t transfer behaviors from one place to another?  You’ve probably noticed that your dog is perfect inside listening to commands and giving you full attention and then once outside things change dramatically?  Is this unusual?

Think of it this way, when you are outside of the home or your children do they get distracted?  Do you have trouble getting them off the playground or out of Best Buy where they are fixated on the gaming systems?

With so many wonderful distractions even for us wit our cell phones,  we need to start somewhere.  The first step in getting attention from our dog is to put the phone away. I find this challenging at times but it is a must.  Next is to begin teaching attention.  For us it can be mindful meditation and learning to focus on one task instead of many. For our dogs it means getting their undivided attention.  I start with teaching the LOOK command in a quiet place indoors.  This is a process.  I bring a soft treat to my eyes and when I get eye contact from the dog I mark with YES and treat. I do this about 10 times and then add a distraction like simply putting the food to the side and then asking for eye contact. If the dog does not get it I start again from the beginning. Once this is mastered we begin moving outdoors and gradually increase the distractions. As it becomes more challenging it is necessary to make sure the dog is very hungry and the treats are of very high value like real chicken or steak.

When training outdoors it is essential that the dog be comfortable. There are some that have anxiety or fear issues which can interfere with attention.  Create a safe space when teaching these skills and work slowly toward your goals keeping distractions at a distance and working up to closer proximity.  If necessary contact your veterinarian and discuss options for the anxious dog. Another helpful tool when teaching attention is to use your body by moving and becoming a subject of interest.  Use your voice and sudden movements to get your dog to think you are the most interesting thing in the area.  Another way to get attention is to teach a behavior like TOUCH and reinforce it when in different settings.  I like teaching dogs tricks since they are fun and create attention.

What also helps with teaching attention is to build leadership skills by having your dog earn all of his rewards. This is not that hard when you consider they can earn meals, going through the door and getting on the couch.

Remember that just like with us our dogs can often become distracted but with patience and encouragement we can build a better bond and our dogs will learn that we are far more interesting than this distractions.

Happy training!

 

Dorice

 

 

Are We Stereotyping Seniors?

It snuck up on me ever so slightly. I had mentioned to someone that I enjoyed paddle boarding and wanted a faster board for racing.  I’ve been active in this sport for years.  They rolled their eyes and gave me that look.  “At your age, really?” I recoiled from their remark and then realized that there are still many pre-conceived notions as to what constitutes proper behavior for the over 50 crowd. Then I wondered, are we stereotyping our dogs too?

I think most owners will agree that once dogs reach a certain age we start to become hyper-focused on changes in their personality and health.  And we may without realizing begin to treat them differently. Often without realizing it we may let them slow down in mind and body. Some may even think “Haven’t they earned that?”  However, it may not be the best way to age gracefully.  With a veterinarian’s approval there are so many ways that we can enrich the lives of our seniors without simply retiring them to the couch.

Here are some ways that you and your dog can enjoy these precious years together:

  1. Keep up daily exercise together. I’ve known some people that never walk their dogs.  Overweight dogs live shorter lives and are prone to more health problems. Visit your vet and discuss options for better diet management and potential exercise solutions based upon your dog’s current health. Swimming can be wonderful for dogs and there are many that incorporate this with physical therapy.
  2. Keep that mind active. There are so many puzzle toys and interesting activities that you can introduce your senior dog to including scent work, rally and tricks that don’t require a lot of physical activity.
  3. Have fun and find the joy in every day with your senior dog.  They’ve spent many years getting to know you and will often reflect your moods. Include them wherever you can and let them know that even though they may need more naps, they are an important part of your life. They thrive on a regular schedule and humans do too.

There will be good days and challenges along the way with your senior dog, but there’s nothing as valuable in life as a devoted canine companion that is truly your best friend.

 

®2018 Dorice Stancher, MBA, CPDT-KA All rights reserved

If it isn’t fun why do it?

DSC_0124I was on the outdoor store’s website when I saw it.  There was a SUP with your pup class and all that was required was to bring your well-behaved dog and their vaccinations. In an hour and a half they would have you on the water.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I am all about having a good time with my dogs.  But here is the big question-IS IT FUN FOR THE DOG OR IS IT SCARY?  This is a question that even we as the most enthusiastic owners need to ask before attempting any activity or it’s just not fair. Also if you REALLY WANT TO SUCCEED AND BUILD DRIVE so that your dog loves to do this with you, take your time.  Trying new activities with your dog can be a real thrill.  We just need to make sure they have the physical capability and mental attitude required to feel comfortable attempting this new activity.

If your dog has never been in the water it’s probably best to get them accustomed to a life jacket and then gradually expose them to swimming in a safe and force-free environment.  I like getting in the water with them and encouraging them with toys, treats and praise. Once they are comfortable if the task involves movement and balance I would introduce the kayak or SUP on dry land while on foam blocks and practice teaching the dog to enter and stay in place reinforcing with treats and praise.  This can take not just hours but days or even weeks. The next step is teaching the dog to ignore distractions such as birds and animals.

IT ISN’T FUN WHEN THEY GET TIRED and it’s often hard for owners to stop an activity.  Sometimes we get so excited to continue what we enjoy that we forget about how the dog may feel about it.  Even the most friendly of dogs may get tired of those therapy visits.  I recently read of a school system that was rotating therapy dogs all day long in their classrooms.  Dogs unlike school equipment need a break and sometimes have off days. They may not be up to it and this can lead to stress and all that comes with it.

GO WITH THE FLOW and enjoy those special moments with your dog but keep in mind that his way of telling you that it’s time for a break may be less obvious but important for his well being.

®DoriceStancher, Canines Can Do, llc 2018 All rights reserved.

 

 

 

I have a new puppy what do I do?

This question gets me really excited because it means that the owner is beginning a fresh new start.  Like any other new adventure it is combined with anticipation, expectations, a little fear and the desire to seek new information to have a positive outcome.

One of the most important things a new puppy owner can do is to prepare for the arrival. The first three big puppy challenges are housebreaking, mouthing and biting and creating a foundation of basic obedience.

Housebreaking is a challenge with a new puppy.  It is so tempting to get caught up in the cuteness and allow them everywhere including your bed when they cry.  This is not a good idea as they often will pee there.  Instead choose a crate that is appropriately sized so that your puppy can walk in, turn around and lie down. If it is bigger they may also relieve themselves there.  In the beginning use a small towel instead of a bed inside just in case they make a mess.  You will want to get your dog used to the crate by leaving the door open and keeping it where you are.  You can put treats and a soft toy in the crate and practice shutting the door. Make sure puppy gets enough exercise during the day or he will be up all night.

If you have an open floor plan think of where to place your gates so that the puppy does not have too much freedom. Make sure to make your home safe for puppy removing things that they can get into that might be harmful. If you cannot watch your puppy they should be confined otherwise they will poop and pee where you least expect it.  Take your puppy outside to go potty after they wake up, if they circle and sniff, after a play session, and after eating and drinking. That’s a lot of going outside but things will begin to settle into a pattern.  If your puppy is successful going outside add a word and praise/treat when they are successful. Your best opportunity is when they first wake up. The moment they are up and moving pick them up and take them out. If you let their feet touch the floor there is a good chance they will go to the bathroom so carry them out in the beginning.

Mouthing and Biting will happen within days of coming home. At first there is usually a lot of sleeping but once they are over the shock of leaving their litter mates they will look to you for that rambunctious fun and it is not pretty.  Those sharp teeth will get into everything so you will need to be prepared.  Every puppy should come with an appropriately sized Kong or similar toy that can contain an item like peanut butter.  I like to freeze them and have on hand when those teeth hurt and cause them to bite.  There are also soft toys that contain no stuffing that are great to use as substitutes when puppies become mouthy.  We offer as a substitute and praise when they take. There are also many biting deterrents like Bitter Apple that can be sprayed on hands and other surfaces like clothing to deter this behavior.

Puppies like to chew lots of soft things so please put those things of value away until puppy goes through this period of growth or keep the puppy in a safe place.

The umbilical method uses a leash to keep puppy at your side so that you can monitor and direct his behavior. This is often very useful for training as long as you remember that puppy may need time to go to the bathroom or crate time.

Basic Obedience should start the moment the puppy arrives.  I know this may seem unbelievable but puppies are so smart they learn every moment they are with you.  Start teaching your dog some basics like sit and down.  You can also start teaching self control behaviors like waiting for the food bowl and leave it.  For the food bowl I have my dog SIT and then put down the bowl as I say “okay”.  This teaches the puppy to learn to please you.  For the leave it I put the treat in my hand. I have another treat in my other hand. When I tell them to leave it I wait until they give up trying and treat from the other hand.  Then I switch to other items. Tricks are a fun way to teach obedience and get children involved.  I like having families choose their commands and then keeping their list in a place like the kitchen so they all use the same words.

Having a puppy can be a challenge but the time you spend training at this important time will really be worth it.DSC_0426

My dog won’t come when called…

One of the biggest problems pet owners face is getting their dogs to come to them when called.  What many people don’t realize is how quickly dogs become conditioned to ignoring us or turning an opportunity into a game.  For instance,  your dog grabs your shoes and you call them and they run away as you chase them.  The game is on!  You race to catch him, he’s faster and there’s teeth marks and dog spit on everything.  What is an owner to do?

Here are some ways to get things under control.  First, you want to condition your dog to associate returning to you with something of value and certainly NOT punishment. I mean would YOU approach someone who is going to scream at you?  I think not.  I like to play hide and go seek in the home with my dog. I use the simple word COME and reward with praise first and then a cookie.  I do this several times. To this I add the GOTCHA, which is a gentle grasp of the collar and a treat simultaneously. This way my dog will let me get closer and actually grasp them.  I do this slowly and gradually.  I also like adding a partner and playing the Rebound Recall where the dog is in the middle and takes turns coming to each family member when called.  We praise from the very moment they look at the person who called them. Don’t forget moving away from your dog and clapping your hands urges the prey drive and gets them excited to return to you.  Finally we practice this outside in a fenced yard or on a leash.  Every family member should be consistent. In some cases the word COME has been so overused and has lost meaning that we need to change the word to something else.  Another way to get your dog to return to you is to add a sound like a whistle.  When the dog pays attention encourage him to come then praise and treat.  Be careful not to lure the dog by showing the food otherwise if you don’t have food the dog will hesitate and often not come without it.  In general dogs respond better when they are put on a “learn to earn” program where all good things are only given when the dog does something the owner asks.  Finally, with a partner you can get a dog more excited about coming by having one hold him back while the other person races to the other side of the room and encourages him to come.  Remember to praise for racing toward you and do not ask the dog to sit. We are praising and rewarding for coming when called.

Copyright ®2018Dorice Stancher/Canines Can Do, llc All rights reserved.L1030280