Welcome to another episode of “Found It, Fetched It,” where host Joanne Perrott sits down with LWDG Guest Expert, Chloe Kinnear . This week’s podcast delves into the life of therapy dogs, and the role dogs play in emotional healing. Here’s a wonderful blog put together by Chloe.

What Is A Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs are a unique category of working dogs. They provide vital emotional support and companionship in hospitals, care homes, schools, and various other settings.

Podcast Edition:

My Therapy Dog Journey

Let’s talk about my personal experience with therapy dogs. My main partner is Mabel, a Labrador retriever with a temperament that perfectly suits the role. I also have Zeus in training. The training process for therapy work resembled what I did with my gundog – the usual commands like sit, stay, recall, with a strong emphasis on patience. This patience is crucial in both home and working environments.

Initial Jitters And Rewarding Results

My first visit with Mabel to a care home was a mixed bag of emotions. I was both excited and nervous. However, the experience turned out to be incredibly rewarding. It provided a way to give back to the community and witness the positive impact Mabel had on the residents. While Mabel initially showed some stress signals (lip licking and yawning), she adapted quickly and learned to interact calmly and appropriately with the residents. Interestingly, the recognisable therapy dog uniform seems to trigger a shift in Mabel’s demeanour, promoting a calm and focused work mode.

Continues below….


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Qualities Of A Successful Therapy Dog

Not every dog is suited for therapy work. Therapy dogs need to undergo temperament testing and possess specific skills:

  • Heel Work: Therapy dogs must walk on a loose lead and remain under control at all times. Collars are only used during non-working hours.
  • Settle Down: The ability to sit and rest comfortably in any environment is essential. This is typically taught using a settle mat, gradually increasing duration and introducing distractions over time.
  • Grooming Tolerance: Therapy dogs must tolerate petting, grooming, and having their ears and tails touched. This ensures they can handle enthusiastic interactions without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Leave It Command: A strong “leave it” command is vital, especially in hospitals and care homes where dropped medications could pose a danger.
  • Gentle Treat Taking: Taking treats gently is important to avoid injuring people. Pawing and jumping up are strictly off-limits.
  • Patience: Therapy dogs should remain calm and avoid whining or jumping up during interactions.
  • Startle Recovery: Dogs must be able to respond appropriately to unexpected sounds or movements. For example, a loud crash from a hospital trolley shouldn’t trigger barking or lunging.

Considering Therapy Dog Training?

If you think your dog might have the temperament and skills to become a therapy dog, don’t hesitate to explore the possibilities! While it may not be the right fit for everyone, it could be the beginning of a fulfilling journey for you and your dog.

More About Chloe

As a canine behavioural therapist in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, Chloe is passionate about helping dogs reach their full potential. Whether it’s basic obedience, gundog training, or helping a rescue dog overcome challenges, Chloe is really passionate about helping dogs be the best they can be. Find Chloe on social media @123DogTraining (Facebook & Instagram) or 123dogtraining (TikTok).


What’s Your Gundog Goddess Style?

Who’s ready for some extra fun? Discover your unique approach to training with our “Which Gundog Goddess Are You?” quiz. You don’t want to miss this one

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