:) :) :) Therapy Dog Tips?


Experienced Member
Okay... so... I have talked to a therapy dog group in my area... and it looks like in a short couple of months, Gordy and I just might become a therapy team :)
First I'll go to an orientation, and then we will start a 5 week class offered by the organization we would be volunteering with, and the end of the 5 weeks of training will be an evaluation!
Gordy is always very eager to meet new people, and while he won't jump up on anyone, he does show a good bit of wiggle butt excitement :D . He'll pull on the leash to see people who greet him excitedly, but will respond to "easy" quickly. So, I don't know, maybe he is okay because he's not a wild man, just a very enthusiastic boy. I think the classes prior to the eval might help, because he will be used to the environment, and the other people and dogs being around.
Gordy is so easy to fall in love with though :love: I can't wait to be able to do this with my boy... when I was hospitalized in the past... the sound of jingling tags would get me out of bed quicker than any doctor would have ever thought!!
I thought Gordy would be my dock dog... and while I still hope to pursue that in the future... I'd be hiding a big secret from the world if I didn't get Gordy into the therapy dog scene too.
Any tips on continuing to pursue the therapy dog path?

Adrianna & Calvin

Experienced Member
Hi Gordykins

Congrats. A 5 week class sounds like a good prep and a proper way to evaluate a dog. I will say that, although there are a lot of people-friendly dogs, only a small percent of those wonderful dogs will be suitable as therapy dogs. There is a difference between being an awesome, friendly, and calm dog, and being a good therapy dog. For some dogs it's physical -- they have physical problems (joints, skin issues, allergies) or traits (excessive drooling) which make them unsuitable to work with hospitalized patients. But for many, they are just not suited to the work and that's ok, they are still wonderful dogs. Patricia McConnell just released a great DVD talking about what makes a great therapy dog.

I will give you some advice which I wish I'd heard (my dog is a certified therapy dog), and which no one wrote or said anywhere until Trish McConnell's DVD came out. Protect your dog. Don't make them endure something they don't like, because it's important to the patient and you know and trust your dog to tolerate it. It's not fair and these 'golden' temperaments, these very special dogs, will lose that shine if they are forced into situations they are uncomfortable with. Don't let a crowd of happy children 'mug' your dog because you think he'll be ok, it won't hurt him, and besides it is so important to the kids! You are his only advocate and must always be on his side, and treat his tolerance level as a gift that has to be preserved.

Just my $0.02.


Honored Member
Well-said!!! (y) I had the absolute honor of attending a Patricia McConnell seminar a few years ago (on a totally different subject) but one thing she stressed - we must be our dogs' biggest advocate always, everywhere. Therapy is no different.

Can't remember now without going back, isn't Gordy under a year? The class will be good and yet more time for him to mature and experience life in general. Do give him time to mature, don't rush him into anything. He may indeed be the perfect therapy dog, but let him have his puppyhood too. Therapy dogs are expected to act like mature, adult dogs (altho be happy willing petting partners, true). Make sure he has time to mature enough so he enjoys his work and can just be himself - and not only a dog you want him to be.


Experienced Member
Thank you guys for your replies. Sorry that it took me couple days to log back on. Gordy is almost two years old.
Gordy definitely has a lot of puppy happiness in him, but he's not as "rambunctious" as most people would think a lab of his age would be. People are always confused about his age because he looks young, but people always say to me that most labs are not as calm as he is until after three years. I tend to not believe in those types of generalizations about any breed of dog though. I'm not a blanket statements type of person... there are exceptions to everything.
I don't know though... I spent a lot of time in the hospital last year, and I didn't like it when the therapy dogs were too serious. Kind of doom and gloomy in a doom and gloomy place. BUT, there were therapy dogs who were perky, and happy, and excited to meet new people, and I loved that. It made you forget how much things sucked for a few minutes.
I've been able to see Gordy interact with some kids who have special medical needs, and with some elderly people, and I just am amazed that he has this knack for comforting people. Its even like he knows which person in the room needs a little TLC, and he'll go be their buddy. Not really what I expected when I adopted an 8 month old puppy, but he's been doing it since the first time that we had a visitor who was coming to me for emotional support. She ended up getting more than she bargained for :) she even came back, not to talk, but to spend time with Gordy again.
I'm not at all saying that he's going to be the perfect therapy dog because of these things, but I think they are definitely signs that I need to further explore the possibility.
Like I said, I'm not pushing him to do this because I want him to be that dog... he kind of is that dog, if I were decide that I didn't care what would make him feel purposeful, and decide to push him in a direction just because I wanted him to be a certain way, we'd be out on a dock day in and day out!!! But that's a moot point, because all I want Gordy to be is Gordy. There is not another dog in this world like him. There never will be, and even if all this turns out to be for nothing, Gordy has already been my very own personal therapy dog since the moment we met. :love: (not that I'm trying to brag about him when I say that... but you know that saying "the best dog in the world belongs to everyone who has a dog in their family".... that is one thing that I do think is a legit blanket statement :);))

eta! I reread, and Idk if it made it sound like Gordy wouldn't do well with dock diving or wouldn't like it. I think he could learn it, but I've only tried to get him to jump off a dock once, and he only barely jumped off... and I don't think that's a problem, but we have only ever tried it out for fun. He loves swimming after toys... well actually, he prefers sticks it seems... but its not something I've really trained him for. He just does what he does, and I don't push for more because its just fun for now!