Become a Therapy Dog Team and Make a Difference!
Therapy dogs bring smiles, brighten the room, and offer a reprieve from endless grief. Dogs can sit quietly, absorbing and washing away a person’s sadness. They don’t mind if their beautiful coat becomes soaked with tears, and they don’t ask anything in return.
Therapy dogs visit rest homes, schools, group homes, children’s homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation homes. They can be part of a special emergency response team, such as TIP (Trauma Intervention Program), and work on-call to provide support to those facing “the worst day of their life”.
As a volunteer, you and your dog can work independently or with an organization. If you plan on visiting multiple facilities or desire to volunteer with a larger organization, you will most likely be required to be certified as a “therapy dog team.”
As an independent volunteer visiting one facility regularly, you may find that you do not need to be certified as a “therapy dog team.” Each facility has its own policy for visiting therapy animals. Call and ask what their requirements are. They may require no certification, or they may require you be certified by a specific organization, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs. They may also require a background check or flu vaccine. Often, if you are visiting a family member daily in a rest home, they may only require the pet’s vaccine records.
Whether you visit one facility or many, achieve certification with one organization or the other, or become certified at all, you MUST have a dog with the right personality and skills to do the job safely and effectively.
NOT ALL DOGS WANT TO BE THERAPY DOGS!
Does your dog enjoy being next to you and petted? Does he or she nudge or elicit petting from strangers? Or does she duck away when being reached for?
NOT ALL DOGS HAVE THE SKILLS TO BE THERAPY DOGS
Is your dog extremely well socialized? Not fearful of men, women, children, hats, gloves, medical equipment, dogs, cats? Is he or she calm and relaxed, or hyper and jumping on guests? Has your dog ever growled, snapped at, nipped, or bitten another person or dog?
REQUIREMENTS FOR A THERAPY DOG
1. Desire to be petted and interact calmly with people.
2. Calm personality, not overly excitable or hyper.
3. Well trained in obedience skills heel, sit, down, and stay.
4. Socialized with dogs, cats, children, men, women, seniors, slippery floors, loud noises, sirens, stairs, elevators, wheelchairs, walkers, people with unsteady gaits, noisy medical equipment, loud speakers, and more.
5. Goes to the bathroom outside before and after each therapy visit. Never soils during a therapy visit.
6. Never a history (during a therapy visit or at any time) of growling, snapping, nipping, or biting a person or another animal. Any aggression or history of aggression disqualifies the animal.
NEXT STEP …. CERTIFICATION!!! (Like & follow for the next featured article)
LEARN how you can help train your dog to become a therapy dog and what steps you should take to start making an impact one smile or puppy hug at a time.
Do you need a PTSD Service Dog or Protection Dog?
A person suffering from PTSD or severe anxiety faces challenges in every day situations, making life’s necessary tasks difficult to complete. Some sufferers believe a service dog would provide them with security, helping to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, allowing for more freedom through a sense of security.
PTSD is triggered in the patient by a terrifying event occurring to them or the witnessing of such an event. The symptoms that may be experienced are intrusive memories, avoiding places, people or activities, negative changes in mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. It is of natural course for the individual to want a service dog that would protect them from any future threat.
Having a well trained dog at your side 24/7 may have a positive effect on your mood, increase your willingness to go places or engage in activities, and give you focus of something very positive that needs daily care and love.
Service dogs for PTSD are trained in tasks to interrupt intrusive memories, provide the confidence to go out in public, and be a catalyst for a positive mood and provide the structure for emotional awareness. Dogs have incredible healing powers, known to those who love them.
Protection dogs are trained to bark, attack and/or bite a person that is threanting their handler. Properly trained protection dogs are an excellent deterrent for would-be criminals and make their handlers feel safe in any situation of threat.
Legalities and responsibilities of a protection dog are different from that of a service dog. Protection dogs are trained to attack to protect their handler. These types of dogs are NOT service dogs. Since they are not service dogs, protection dogs are not granted public access with their handlers. Dogs trained to attack are a very real danger to the general public, places that a service dog must navigate daily.
While a protection dog may make a sufferer of PTSD feel very safe and confident, the drawback is that the dog cannot accompany them to the places that often cause the most significant symptoms, such as flying, shopping, working, and doing group activities. A protection dog stunts the healing process of PTSD because they can keep people away as opposed to encouraging positive interactions with friends, increase the handler’s anxiety through hyper vigilance, promote isolation because they cannot go into public places, and cause their handler to become more isolated because no one wants to hang around a dangerous or scary dog.
The laws governing service dogs are not all encompassing, but it is made clear that service dogs are never to be aggressive or trained to be aggressive in any manner. Service dogs are held to a higher standard than pets because they can go into grocery stores, theaters, schools, places of work, and any place the general public uses. The public has a right to enjoy these places safely and not be exposed to or be threatened by aggressive dogs. Service dog handlers are legally responsible for their dogs’ behavior!
If you suffer from PTSD or severe anxiety and want a service dog to help in your healing journey, it must be trained to perform specific tasks to interrupt intrusive memories, provide the confidence to go out in public, and be of a sound temperament to function as a catalyst for a positive mood and provide the structure for increased emotional awareness.
A PTSD service dog performs tasks like turning on a light upon awaking from a nightmare, standing behind you for a sense of security, circling around you on command to help keep space between you and other shoppers, and provide deep pressure therapy during overwhelming emotional episodes.
Bottom line is, if you want a protection dog, buy a protection dog. If you want healing, seek a properly trained service dog for PTSD. One is not the other and roles cannot be interchanged.
We wish you health and comfort on your PTSD healing journey. May you be blessed with the unconditional love of man’s best friend, the dog.
Appalachian Dog Training LLC provides fully trained service dogs for PTSD.
Download or request an application today to learn more about PTSD service dogs and how they can make a difference in your life!
Picking the Perfect Puppy
We field questions regularly from people wanting to add the perfect puppy, so we thought we would share our expertise with you!
When you have decided on the most suitable breed of puppy, the next step is to start looking. Popular sources are Craigslist, the classifieds, internet search, Facebook search, and referrals from friends or other professionals. You will quickly discover a wide variety of puppies with a wide range of prices, contract terms, and other options. How do you sort through all of this?!
You get what you pay for, however price does not always reflect quality. When selecting a purebred puppy, only choose AKC/UKC/CKC registered dogs. This helps to prove the dog’s lineage and that it is in fact a purebred. Select a breeder who has done genetic testing on the damn and sire, to include hips and elbows certifications. This will not guarantee long term health, but it does show a breeder’s effort in improving the breed and producing healthy puppies. Breeders who have done the genetic testing pass the costs onto you when you buy a puppy, that is why higher quality puppies cost more. Require these documents when you see the puppies!
Now that you have found a reputable breeder, it is time to schedule a visit! You must go with an open mind and be objective. You are now examining the facility, the breeder, breeder’s dogs, and puppies. The facility could be a small home or farm with several litters of puppies. It must be clean, well kept, and the dogs should be housed in runs that are clean, dry and well lit, if not kept in the house. A litter of puppies can’t be kept 100% clean due to the nature of puppies, but there should not be feces or urine in excess. The puppies should appear to be clean, in good health, and show appropriate activity levels for their age (when not napping!). No sneezing, coughing, runny noses, eye discharge, diarrhea, etc.
Communicate with the breeder and assess their honesty with the information they provided on the phone or in the ad. They should never require the puppy be spayed/neutered before 17 months age as this can damage the developing puppy. Do not sign a puppy contract you are not comfortable with. The puppy should come with a health guarantee, read it!
The damn and sire (if present) will tell you much about the puppies’ adult size, coat type, and temperament. If you don’t like the parents, you won’t be happy with your (adult) puppy.
With a reputable breeder, AKC/UKC registered puppies in good health, a clean facility, and friendly puppy parents and are now ready to select your puppy!
Do not choose the puppy that runs to you first! This will happen every time you sit down with a litter a puppies and it is only by chance that one of them comes to you first. Ideally the litter size is 4-8 puppies, to few and the mother spoils them and too many she has a difficult time attending to them. For pets, you generally want to select the most average puppy. You do not want the most active one nor do you want the calmest one. The puppy that is mildly active but also rests is, generally, the better pick. While being the first puppy to come to you has little to no value, you do want the puppy that continues to return to you!
Puppy temperament tests provide very limited information and only assess the puppy on that day in that moment and are not indicative of adult behavior. A trait that does remain constant is what we at Appalachian Dog Training LLC call “arousal level”, indicated by tail carriage. If the puppies have their tails hiked up tight over their backs they are “high arousal” puppies. You will see this, especially when playing, but the tail should mostly be in line with the back “medium arousal”. A lowered tail or tucked tail may indicate significant fear.
A “high arousal” puppy will become a dog that is more reactive, more likely to be a barker, and more likely to be higher energy and have a higher likelihood of behavioral problems as an adult. The ‘joe cool’ medium arousal puppies are easy going, more willing to accept new social partners, and be calmer in general.
You now have the skills to pick the perfect puppy!
Check out our Puppy Head Start Program for early training options!!
An open and honest evaluation of your dog and your situation will help you decide if you should train your dog to be a Service Dog.
4 considerations we use to determine the probability of success:
1. Dog evaluation
Age, parents’ temperament, litter size, height/weight, health, known (?) early health/history, personality, work ethic, existing behavior challenges, previous training, current level of socialization, natural ability to retrieve/alert/paw etc.
2. Time commitment
Training daily, weekly, yearly, maintenance training, training “in the moment”
Care, feeding, walking, exercising, brushing, bathing, extra house cleaning
Purchase cost/adoption fees, evaluation fees, veterinary care, spay/neuter, urgent care, high quality food, equipment, crate, supplies, toys, training costs 1-2 years, travel, transportation, outings
Dogs in training to become service dogs require activities that you may not regularly engage in such as outings to busy stores, walks in the woods, visiting amusement parks, attending children’s activities, meeting and talking with strangers daily, exercising, and more.
The symptoms of your disability or child’s disability may specifically limit the types of activities you regularly engage in. A dog must receive fully comprehensive socialization, training, and public outings in all environments in order to help them develop into a service dog that can go any place at any time without experiencing stress or displaying ill behavior. These are not steps or training that can be “skipped”.
Children or dependents whom must be looked after will need child care or a helper to supervise them while you exercise, train, and take your dog on public outings every day. Having a child or parent with a disability already limits the thought of any ‘free time’ for yourself, none the less to train or exercise your dog. Please be very honest with yourself when measuring the time available to train your dog.
NEXT up... COSTS!!
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Meeting your Service Dog is should be a magical moment. Instead, imagine receiving an untrained puppy instead of a helpmate? Now imagine that wild puppy cost you and your supporters $15,000-$30,000!
Folks, this is becoming commonplace as bogus companies prey on the heartstrings of the some of the neediest people and their families. You might ask, how can this happen?
Lack of Regulation.
There are no federal or state training regulations for service dogs. Guidelines for minimum training standards for Public Access are set by the IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners) but there is no enforcement of suggestion.
NO test for Service Dogs.
NO certification for Service Dogs.
NO age requirement for Service Dogs.
NO training, education, or certification required for Service Dog Trainers.
People Taking Advantage.
Dog Trainers and Dog Training Companies should be held to the highest standard, but again, there is no regulation of Animal Trainers. Anyone can become a Dog Trainer and buy a certification diploma to hang in their office without ever touching a dog. They can, and they do.
The BEST Dog Trainers and Dog Training Companies hold their dogs to the highest standards and do not provide services that contribute to poorly trained Service Dogs, inappropriately behaved Service Dogs, or Fake Service Dogs.
Just because a company is operating as a Not-for-Profit does not mean that it is not profitable and does not guarantee that they are providing Service Dogs that meet or exceed IAADP minimum Public Access requirements.
Investigate Your Service Dog Company.
Look for education, experience and credentials of the owners and Dog Trainers. Research each dog training school, program or class attended. If the training is online, verified by an online test, or easily obtained by paying a “membership fee”, question the qualification of the trainer. Can’t find education or training? Run faster than your dog! There are well qualified trainers available, do not settle.
Ask for referrals of current Service Dog clients and call them to learn about their experience.
Meet your Service Dog Trainer, the company, and your potential Service Dog. See how the Service Dog in Training is matched with you (or your child, etc.). Verify the facility is clean and dogs are healthy and well cared for. Find out the details of what specific tasks, obedience commands, and Public Access training your Service Dog will have completed before delivery. GET THIS IN WRITING!
Ask what age your Service Dog will be when training is completed.
Lastly, Service Dogs are NOT PUPPIES!!!!! They should have completed 1-2 years of training and should be spayed or neutered by age 2.
Service Dogs should come with a health guarantee, read the documents carefully to learn what is covered, the limitations, and if they have a program for replacing your Service Dog or refunding your money if the dog’s health becomes poorly.
Don’t become a victim, be an Advocate for Properly Trained Service Dogs!
The holidays can be very stressful for our pets. We are changing our routines with vacations, inviting guests over, and exercising less because of cold weather. Family dogs synchronize with our moods, feeling the stress we carry.
It is easy to overlook these minor changes, but to your dog, these minor changes are gigantic changes. Add in a dog that is already a bit anxious with separation or fearful of new people and this can lead to unexpected behavior.
The Trainer’s most common story is based on “he/she never did this before” and “we are shocked” wanting to know why their dog did XYZ. The dog’s behavior is a result of something, to be thought of as a symptom. For example, when a dog snaps at another dog, we need to identify the root cause of that behavior.
There is a difference between a dog that snaps out of fear versus a dog that snaps to assert dominance. A good dog trainer will be able to evaluate the cause of behavior and provide an avenue to changing the motivation for the snapping, thus ending the snapping!
Although you may not be able to decode the “why” of your dog’s unusual behavior, you can make a list of changes that may be affecting or stressing your dog. One schedule change may not cause your dog to chew up his bed but adding in new guests each day and little outside time and voila! Good-bye fancy orthopedic, bolstered dog bed.
What can you do? Be aware. Be conscious. Be Flexible.
1. Be Aware. Plan for your days off, extra workload, dinner parties, family visiting, your own travels and any thing you partake in that varies from the “daily grind”. Simply being aware will help to see the early signs of stress. These include: pacing, barking, lip licking, yawning frequently, paw licking, and destruction. When you see these early signs STOP and spend 5 minutes with your dog. A short walk, little ball game or food toy as you sit on the floor with him or her can change their day.
2. Be Conscious. Watch the weather report and fit a walk, even if only 5 minutes, into your day at the warmest times or takes extra long walks on rain-free snow-free days. Have a long work week or late dinner party? Hire that dog walker! A trustworthy dog walker is worth their weight in gold on cold snowy days. Once per week or five times a week will help your dog greatly.
3. Be Flexible. Change your walking routes, play new games with your dog, and be ready to walk your dog when the weather does break. When the weather won’t give, or your dog is really bored, take them to pet-friendly stores. Your dog will love the field trip and will be tired from all the new sights and smells.
Remember you are not the only one feeling Holiday Stress. Your dog that is looking at you right now, waiting for you to put the phone down, feels your stress. Grab your leash and go play!
Summer is the time to get out with your dog for fun, socialization, and swimming! Not all Labradors love the water and that is likely from having a bad first experience at the lake or in the pool. You can show your dog that the water is a fun and safe place to cool off and relax. My tips will show you how to easily accustom your dog to enjoy swimming with you for a lifetime!
First experiences are critical! The proper terminology is behavioral imprint and what we mean is the first time the dog experiences something he is ‘imprinted’ with that first memory. If that first memory is pleasant he will repeat the behavior in the future with ease. If he was scared at the time or something bad happened to him, hesitation to repeat that behavior will be even greater the next time he is presented with that opportunity.
Second, set your dog up for success. Chose a slow-moving creek or quiet pond where you will be alone, or a lake large enough that you will have your own space. Lifejackets are not necessary but do add a sense of security for dogs used to wearing them by helping them float and by adding deep pressure sensation (ex. the anti-anxiety Thunder Shirt wrap). Use a long line of 15 feet and a harness so the lead stays behind the dog. You do not want your dog to become tangled and panicked! Chose his favorite floating toy to bring along.
Third, motivate your dog to enter the water, never ever force him. Even pulling on the leash towards the water will result in a not-so-positive first-time experience. Accept that the first trip to the water is most likely not going to end with him swimming laps and refusing to come out. Encourage your dog to move towards the water with happy talk, treats and play with his favorite toy. When your dog is readily approaching the water, you toss his toy along the shore so that he can grab it without going in.
Trainer’s Tip: Throw the toy parallel to the shore. Tossing the toy straight out creates a barrier (the water) whereas going parallel the dog maintains the security of being close to land.
Lastly, make sure your dog has confidence in you. Show him that you will never force, tug or pull him to the water. Build trust by tossing his toy only the distance he is willing to go in, increasing the distance very slowly over many different swimming trips. Never suggest or allow your dog to enter fast moving water. If you can, bring a friend and go to a swimming spot that you can both enjoy! Your dog is even more likely to want to swim if you are in there with him!
Make going home a breeze by bringing a few extra dog towels and allowing 30 minutes of drying time before leaving. If the dog is crated, even less mess in the car! Go, get out, and have an amazing summer with your best pal!
Preparing for Baby includes preparations for your dog. Just as everything in your life will change drastically in a moment, so will the dogs’. Help your dog transition to this new routine to ensure an enjoyable companionship between baby and pup!
1. Act out the new routine before the baby arrives. Picture how the dog’s routine will change and start doing those things with him or her now. You may move his crate out of your bedroom, stop allowing him on the couch, and take him on walks early instead of late. Now is a great time to curb any barking, jumping or nuisance behavior that causes stress in the household.
2. Use a doll in the home and treat it as you would your own bundle of joy in a few months. Teach the dog rules such as sniffing but no touching. I like to teach the dog that a small blanket on the floor is off limits and on the blanket the baby can lay or play. Children, especially babies, must always be supervised even with well socialized, calm dogs. If this is your first baby then you do not know how your dog will react under the added stress and every precaution must be taken to ensure safety.
3. Sounds from a baby can frighten a dog. Expose your dog to children and babies by playing a recording of children’s’ noises such as a baby’s cry or child’s screech. The first exposures should be played at a low volume for only a few seconds while the dog eats or is fed treats. Very gradually increase the volume and duration of the children’s noises over several weeks. Find friends and family members with children and babies which you can socialize your dog with. Always keep the dog on a leash at a safe distance from a child and separate the dog if he or she becomes stressed, agitated, or shows any signs of aggression.
4. Teach your dog basic obedience commands sit, down, stay, place, come and heel. This will provide you with control over your dog’s behavior and allow you to direct him more easily when your arms are full.
5. Expose your dog to all the cool baby gear that will be in your home. Put the baby cradles, swings and play centers out and turn them on. Walk your dog with the stroller, teaching him to heel next to you. Purchase baby gates and practice keeping your dog in a room separate from you. If you do not already have a crate invest in one and start conditioning your dog to enjoying the safety and comfort of his very own space.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Take the time it takes to socialize and expose your dog gradually to babies and children. Consult a well-qualified dog trainer early so you can train your dog with obedience commands and learn how to avoid and prevent socialization shortfalls. Congratulations on your new journey with baby and dog!
Stores, businesses, and outdoor venues are increasingly inviting friendly dogs to attend. This is a dog owner’s dream come true. All too often we experience just the opposite: NO DOGS ALLOWED. Seriously, who would go to a park and not want to take their dog?!
But should you take them? Some situations are not ideal for all dogs and some events may be ideal for none. Planning to evaluate the outing and your dog’s skill level can help to ensure you, your dog, and the general public all have a wonderful experience.
Evaluate the Outing
1. Ensure there will be cool areas off the hot pavement for your dog to walk. Concrete is always cooler than blacktop but on high heat index days it is probably best to leave them at home.
2. Crowd size? Big crowds or unruly gatherings are a danger to your dog. He or should could be stepped on and have every reason to bite when in pain—but you are responsible for keeping your dog safe from people and people safe from your dog.
Evaluate Your Dog
3. Taking your dog out in public is precisely how you socialize them to become great community canine citizens. Setting your dog up for success requires that this be done gradually. Your first outing should be to a pet friendly store or quiet outdoor restaurant during low traffic times. Expect the first year of outings to require your watchful eye.
4. Have a training plan such as walking in the heel, getting treats for investigating a scary person/thing, and a down stay. This requires obedience to be learned and practiced at home first. Keep it fun with treats and fade them as your dog transforms into a social butterfly!!
War dogs have altered every aspect of dogs as we know them today. They have influenced the winning of wars, and ultimately, affected countries powers’ and borders as they stand today. War dogs have been used for direct combat, messengers (before electronic communications), detection, and as walking weapons. They naturally filled the role as companion and compadre to the men and women training, caring for, and fighting with them.
The ultimate sacrifice goes back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations bred large, powerful, and highly specialized dogs to serve as warriors. One of these breeds, known as the Molossur Dog, was a killing machine. Weighing in at 300-400lbs, he was fitted with spiked armor and deployed in groups to attack the enemy. I can’t imagine the terror.
Boxers are believed to be a descendant of the Molossur dog! At a historical attraction in Rome, Italy you can find a to-scale statue of this impressive dog. The power is captivating. Fortunately, these dogs have been bred down (in size and temperament) but the relics of ancient wars dogs exist among us today in our popular bully type breeds such as the Boxer and English Mastiff.
The training of military dogs has become highly specialized. MWD’s are the elite of the elite. Very few dogs are cut out for this type of work. No pet dog would survive for a day under the environmental stress that a MWD endures as routine. With costs reaching $150, 000 per dog, research and training methods have undergone great scrutiny and are making great advancements.
When soldiers come home they may have a new type of warrior on their side; a Service Dog. Veterans suffer visible and invisible wounds and Service Dogs are here, once again, making history doing what they do best. Service dogs assist veterans in a variety of ways from retrieving dropped objects to helping break social barriers, bringing light into an otherwise dark reality.
Support our fallen heroes, humans and animal, by recognizing the ultimate sacrifice so many have made.
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.