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Yup, I’m talking about my dog again.

So here is my evil plan to make my dog “be all that he can be” or “a dog pack of one” or “doggy strong” or any other army slogan parody you can think of.

I did some research on therapy dogs at www.tdi-dog.org. Therapy dogs are encouragement dogs. They are trained to give support to anyone who needs a pick-me-up. They visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools (this one is cool, they have kids read to the dogs in an effort to promote literacy). They have been used in crisis events like 9/11, earthquakes, and they even visited NIU after the shooting. They are made to be loved-on.

While Ely, too, was made to be loved-on, my long-term goal is not necessarily to make him a therapy dog (although that would be fantastic, I don’t want to reach for something that Ely may or may not get to). Rather, I researched all the testing elements and decided to work on each of them in an effort to make Ely more obedient. Afterall, those testing elements define what a good dog is, so why not aim in that direction?

Ely’s biggest struggle is loose leash walking.  I think if he mastered that, a lot of the other elements of the test would fall into place. Ely is ok on a leash.  Our walks are generally pleasant.  He doesn’t pull hard on the leash, but he likes to go to the end of it. When he stops being aware of me, he gets ahead of me and the leash goes tight. Again, he doesn’t pull against the leash or strain, but he goes as far as he can on the leash) By teaching Ely that he can’t go any further on the leash (I stop if the leash goes tight), I am hoping his awareness of me will increase, thus increasing his listening skills. That’s the hope anyway.  If his listening skills increase, my hope is that all other areas of concern (overly friendly to strangers and other dogs, easily distracted, unable to concentrate) will dissolve.

If you’re curious, the testing requirements for a therapy dog are as follows (the red text is where I think Ely would fail the test):

DEMONSTRATING CONFIDENCE AND
CONTROL, THE DOG MUST COMPLETE
THESE 15 STEPS OF THE AKC/CGC
TEST® AND THE ADDITIONAL TDI
REQUIREMENTS.

TEST 1: ACCEPTING A FRIENDLY STRANGER
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly
stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural,
everyday situation. The Evaluator and handler shake hands
and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of
resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to
go to the Evaluator.

TEST 2: SITTING POLITELY FOR PETTING
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly
stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. The dog
should sit at the handler’s side as the Evaluator approaches
and begins to pet the dog on the head and body only. The dog
may stand in place to accept petting. The dog must not show
shyness or resentment.

TEST 3: APPEARANCE AND GROOMING
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being
groomed and examined and will permit a stranger, such as
a veterinarian, groomer, or friend of the owner, to do so. It also
demonstrates the owner’s care, concern, and sense of responsibility.
The Evaluator inspects the dog, then combs or brushes
the dog, and lightly examines the ears and each front foot.

TEST 4: OUT FOR A WALK
(WALKING ON A LOOSE LEASH)
This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the
dog. The dog can be on either side of the handler, whichever
the handler prefers. There must be a left turn, a right turn, and
an about turn, with at least one stop in between and another
at the end. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the
handler and need not sit when the handler stops.

TEST 5: WALKING THROUGH A CROWD
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely
in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places.
The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several
people (at least three). The dog may show some interest
in the strangers, without appearing overexuberant, shy, or
resentful. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage
or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not be
straining at the leash.

TEST 6: SIT AND DOWN ON COMMAND/STAYING
IN PLACE
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond
to the handler’s command to sit and down, and will remain
in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position,
whichever the handler prefers). The handler may take a
reasonable amount of time and use more than one command
to make the dog sit and then down. When instructed by
the Evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks
forward the length of a 20-foot line. The dog must remain in
place, but may change position.

TEST 7: COMING WHEN CALLED
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called
by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog,
turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use
encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose
to tell the dog to “stay” or “wait,” or they may simply walk
away, giving no instructions to the dog as the Evaluator
provides mild distraction (e.g., petting).

TEST 8: REACTION TO ANOTHER DOG
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely
around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach
each other from a distance of about 10 yards, stop, shake
hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about
5 yards. The dogs should show no more than a casual interest
in each other.

TEST 9: REACTIONS TO DISTRACTIONS
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times
when faced with common distracting situations, such as the
dropping of a large book or a jogger running in front of the
dog. The dog may express a natural interest and curiosity
and/or appear slightly startled, but should not panic, try to
run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.

TEST 10: REACTION TO MEDICAL EQUIPMENT
The dog must be tested around medical equipment (such
as wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers, or other devices
which would ordinarily be found in a facility) to judge the
dog’s reactions to common health care equipment. 

TEST 11: LEAVE-IT
The handler with the dog on a loose leash walks over food
on the ground and, upon command, the dog should ignore
the food. Ely will show interest in the food, but he won’t try to eat it if I tell him leave it

TEST 12: ACCLIMATION TO INFIRMITIES
This test demonstrates the dog’s confidence when exposed
to people walking with an uneven gait, shuffling, breathing
heavily, coughing, wheezing, or other distractions which
may be encountered in a facility.

TEST 13: SUPERVISED SEPARATION
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted
person, if necessary, and will maintain its training and good
manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like,
“Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold
of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three
minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should
not continually bark, whine or pace unnecessarily, or show
anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.

TEST 14: SAY HELLO
The TDI Certified Evaluator will test the willingness of each
dog to visit a person and that the dog can be made readily
accessible for petting (i.e., small dogs can be placed on a
person’s lap or can be held; medium and larger dogs can sit
on a chair or stand close to the patient to be easily reached.)

TEST 15: REACTION TO CHILDREN
The dog must be able to work well around all types of
populations, including children. The dog’s behavior around
children must be evaluated during testing. It is important that
during the testing the potential Therapy Dog and the children
are not in direct contact. This means the dog can only be
observed for a reaction toward children playing, running, or
present in general at the testing site. Any negative reaction
by the dog will result in automatic failure. Negative reaction
means a dog showing signs of aggression.

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