Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Happens After Therapy Dog Prep School?

We've just completed the Spring session of Therapy Dog Prep School.   It's always a great class and I enjoy seeing the dogs and people have fun and learn new skills.   The purpose of TD Prep is to help prepare people and their dogs for testing by national therapy dog programs.  Upon completion of the class many students begin the testing process with a national therapy dog organization.   Once the testing is finished the big question is 'Where do we go to make visits?'    There are so many options and it takes time to find the right fit for handler and dog. 

When I help students find the right placement for their Therapy Dog I encourage them to follow the Who, What, When and Where process. 

Who  do you want to visit?- Determine the age group you would like to visit.  Do you enjoy working with kids, adults, seniors?  You will be most successful and enjoy your visits if you're working with a group of people you feel most comfortable with. 

What type of visits do you want to make? - There are different types of Therapy Dog visits, Animal Assisted Therapy and Animal Assisted Activity.   Do you want to visits patients, participate in the READ Program with children, offer emotional support, participate in physical therapy sessions? 

When is the best time of day for you to visit? -  The day and time that you're available to visit will determine where you will visit with your dog.  

Where do you want to visit? - Do you want to visit hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, libraries, schools?  There are a variety of facilities in need of qualified Therapy Dog Teams.   Finding a facility close to home will make visiting more convenient too. 

I've recently started makig visits with my wonderful girl Faye.  Faye is a graduate of Therapy Dog Prep School and became a registered Therapy Dog in February 2011.   We are visiting the Head Pain Unit at Chelsea Hospital and other facilities in our hometown of Chelsea.       

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is Your Puppy Getting Enough Rest?

How much sleep does your puppy get each day?  The average puppy has a very busy day, full of new experiences, play, training, socialization and travels.  All of this activity may leave your little pup tired and cranky.    It's important to be aware of how much sleep a puppy needs and be sure to meet that need.   

The Sleep Deprived Puppy
It's quite common for puppies to be sleep deprived .  A young puppy needs a minimum of 16-18 hours of sleep per day.   The majority of puppies get less sleep than they need which can result in a number of problems.  A puppy that is sleep deprived can become cranky, hyper, easily aroused, fearful, nervous, anxious, nippy and overly vocal.   Quite often people do not realize that their puppies undesirable behavior is the result of being tired. 

Establishing Better Sleep Habits
It's important that puppies have a regular sleep and nap schedule.  A young puppy will have more restful sleep in a confined area, such as a crate or gated area.   As tempting as it may be to allow your puppy to crash anywhere they please, refrain from doing this, especially when they're young.   Imagine trying to sleep peacefully in the middle of your living room floor, people walking by, talking to you, touching you.   For a puppy to have restful sleep they need to have their own 'quiet space', not in isolation, but somewhere that they can be left alone.  Utilizing a crate is the best approach and provides a safe haven for your tired puppy.   Try to resist the temptation to constantly hold your puppy as this will create an unhealthy dependency on you.  There is nothing wrong with cuddling and holding your puppy, but avoid rocking them to sleep, letting them sleep with you or carrying them around to keep them quiet.
Put together a schedule so that everyone knows the puppies routine.  The following is a good guideline: 

  • Puppy wakes in the morning
  • Outside for bathroom break
  • Breakfast
  • Playtime for 30-60 minutes
  • Outside for bathroom break
  • Nap for 1-2 hours
  • Repeat

Try to avoid long periods of time where the puppy is up and active.  Too often people try to impose their busy lifestyle on a young puppy.   A young puppy should not be up and active for hours at a time, taking naps throughout the day will ensure that they do not have a meltdown at dinner time.   Don't subscribe to the belief  that an overtired puppy will sleep better at night, that plan can backfire on you.  A puppy needs a consistent routine that includes play and exercise, but make sure naps and rest are included.