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AKC Canine Partners

Training Tip Fall 2018

Things Every Therapy Dog Should Know

This issue’s training tip comes from Carol Jean Maclean of Lompoc, CA, who owns Tammy’s Misty Jade CD BN RE OA OAJ NF THDD CGCU TKN. Jean adopted Tammy from the Santa Maria Humane Society in February 2014. In addition to being a successful obedience, rally, and agility competitor, Tammy has earned the highest AKC Therapy Dog honor: Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD)Tammy and Jean were approved for the Love on a Leash Therapy program in April 2014 and began visiting assisted living, convalescent care and adult day care facilities. They also participate in reading programs at the Lompoc Library and the Chumash Learning Center. Tammy made her 400th visit, earning the THDD title, on Feb. 8, 2018. 

Jean shares some tips to help your therapy dog handle distractions and being touched.

I like to make sure my therapy dogs are good at two things: focusing on me and being touched by people.

I train focus at home by having the dogs look at me and give a treat when they do. Start with just a few seconds and then up the time to at least one minute. Then move outside with other distractions. Use treats as it should be a positive experience. There could be distractions at facilities such as other dogs or strange noises. Teaching the dog to focus on you is a good way to help them ignore these distractions.

I start teaching being touched by having someone gently touch ears and feet and give gentle tugs on fur.  Sometimes a patient will pinch a foot or tug an ear and even take a face in both hands and look in a dog’s eyes. Have someone who is experienced with dogs help you with this. Start gentle and then increase pressure – but not enough to hurt your dog. We try to make sure that they don’t get tugged on too hard, but sometimes it happens very quickly. Always make sure your sessions are positive, and use treats or toys to reward.