Sunday, May 26, 2013

Yours........Mine..........Ours.............Who's The Walk For???


When I think about walking my dog, I've found that there are three different types of walks.

This is a walk that belongs to the dog.  It is all about sniffing, exploring, observing, scanning, lingering, all things dog.  All dogs need to have opportunities to explore the world around them and what better way than on a walk.  This walk is totally directed by the dog, I'm following his lead. 

This walk is for the human.  I gave up my gym membership many years ago so that I would have the time and energy to walk my dogs everyday.  I love walking and typically get 4-6 miles in per day.  When I head out on my walk it's pretty faced paced so I typically take my older dogs who are seasoned walking buddies and can keep up with me.  It's important to note that 'forced exercise' is not appropriate for puppies, senior dogs or dogs without appropriate endurance.

These walks are geared towards training and socialization.   When I have a young dog in training we spend alot of time walking and training in public.  These walks include working on leash manners, heeling, greeting people and ignoring distractions.   I'm not concerned about the distance we walk and often times we are just going places and hanging out, so this is not meant to be a physical workout for either human or canine. 

By determing which walk you're going on you can decide if you should include friends or just walk alone.   I've found over the years that both myself and my dogs get more exercise and enjoy our walks when we abandon the one-size-fits-all approach to walks.

More great info by fellow trainers.

How To Find A Therapy Dog Trainer

With the number of people wanting to train Therapy Dogs on the rise, so is the increase in people claiming to be experts in training them.  It's not uncommon to see trainers adding Therapy Dog Classes to their roster.   As is true with any industry, there are always people trying to increase their income by offering popular services.  When looking for someone to help you train a Therapy Dog, credentials and experience are key. 

Find a trainer who is qualified to train Therapy Dogs
There is no shortage of obedience trainers but finding a trainer who is qualified in Therapy Animal Training is very challenging.    There are nationally recognized programs that offer certification in Therapy Animal Training.  A Therapy Animal Trainer has a unique skill set and expertise in working with people and dogs in both Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy.   They should use humane reward based training methods and have a solid understanding of dog behavior.  There is a common misunderstanding that a CGC Tester(Canine Good Citizen) is a Therapy Dog Trainer/Tester.  A person offering a CGC Class/Test,  is endorsed by the AKC (American Kennel Club) not a Therapy Dog Organization.  While the CGC is a good gauge of a dogs basic obedience training and temperament, it is not a Therapy Dog Test.

Find a Trainer who has experience working their own Therapy Dogs
Most trainers have well behaved dogs, dogs who compete in sports, field trials, nose work, conformation, obedience or those who perform entertaining tricks.   All of these are great, but have nothing to do with taking your dog into a Hospital, your private practice or working with sick people.  When looking for a Therapy Dog Trainer you want to work with someone who has Registered Therapy Dogs who work in the community on a regular basis.  A Therapy Dog Trainer should have experience volunteering with their own dog and have experience working with a variety of facilities from Hospitals, Schools, Nursing Homes, etc.    An experienced Therapy Dog Trainer should be consulting with facilities in the community to establish programs and helping to refer or place qualified teams.

Find a legitimate Therapy Dog Organization for testing and registration
Be leary of trainers who have 'home grown programs' as they tend to be making up their own rules.  There are reputable National Therapy Dog Programs who require formal testing and in return offer insurance and legitimate documentation for working teams.  The standards for Therapy Dogs are high, as they should be, and working with a legitimate program is the only way to ensure your dog is appropriate for the job.  The article below gives great insight into the importance of proper selection for working Therapy Dogs.

Ask for references and/or credentials
Before you enroll in a Therapy Dog Training Program ask for recommendations from previous students.  It is also important to ask for references from the places your Instructor visits with their own dogs.  A Therapy Dog Trainers dog is their resume, you'll want to know what their reputation is at the places they visit. 

We have spent years developing our Therapy Dog Training Program.  We strive to set high standards for the teams who come through our program.   The teams who graduate from our program are working in all areas of Animal Assisted Therapy and Activities.   Our goal is not to MAKE every dog who trains with us into a Therapy Dog but rather to prepare them for testing with National Therapy Dog Programs.  This does not mean that every dog who trains with us becomes a Therapy Dog, not all dogs are suited for the job., in which case our job is to help people understand why Therapy Dog Work is not a good fit for their dog and to help them choose an activity they can both enjoy. 

To learn more about our program or to schedule a workshop, visit

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bringing Puppy Home

The moment you have been waiting for has arrived, your new puppy is coming home!  There are  things you can do to make this process easier for both you and your puppy.

Have the necessary equipment

The most important piece of equipment you will need is a Crate.  All puppies benefit from having a Crate and learning early on that it's a safe and happy place.  Great things happen in their crate, meals are served, wonderful toys are there and it's the best place for sleeping and quiet time.  It is also helpful to have a few gates on hand or an  X-Pen.  A puppy should not have free run of your home, using gates is a great way to keep them confined to a smaller area. 

Write out a daily routine for everyone to follow

A young puppy needs a schedule, one that everyone complies with.   The first few days will be trial and error as you get to know your new puppy.   They need to eat, head outdoors for bathroom breaks, playtime and sleep.   Following a schedule will ensure that your puppy is getting all their needs met.

Be available and close to home for the first week 

The transition away from the litter and into a new Human home is stressful.  It's best to have someone available 24/7 for the first week.   If you're going to establish a good routine, someone will need to be there to make that happen.  A puppy has limited bladder/bowel control and should not be expected to go more than 2-3 hours without gaining access to the outdoors, especially during the day.  If you can't be home, hire someone to come and cover for you. 

Establish good sleep habits

The average puppy is sleep deprived and this can lead to a whole host of problems.  A young puppy should sleep 18-20 hours per day.  The following article explains why this is so important.

Take things slow

It's best to keep things low keyed the first week or two, stick close to home, avoid having lots of visitors and resist the temptation to go visiting people or places for the first week.  Having a new puppy in your home is exciting and stressful, taking things slow will allow everyone to adjust.  If you have other pets, these early days are equally as important as they establish new relationships.

Enroll in a Puppy Class

Take the time to research and find a Puppy Class, one that is reward based and taught by a professional trainer.  Once a puppy has started their series of puppy vaccinations they can attend a group class.  A puppy SHOULD NOT go to public dog parks until they are fully vaccinated and have had time to develop age appropriate play skills.   By laying a solid foundation you can help your puppy get off to a great start!