Rio’s First Therapy Dog Observation

Rio’s First Therapy Dog Observation

As I think I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have Rio enrolled in a Therapy Dog preparation class at WPHS to give him some sort of work to do right now.  This class is geared toward the TDI (Therapy Dog International) organization test and has been lots of fun and a great way to expose Rio to all sorts of medical equipment he’d never experienced.  I wasn’t really sure if Rio would make a good therapy dog at this point in his life, but I wanted him in some sort of a class and this was the most advanced class that I wasn’t teaching at WPHS so we went for it.

Before signing up for that class, I had registerred for a therapy dog workshop being taught by a friend of mine in Cleveland, OH.  The workshop will give a lot more information about therapy dog work and is designed around the TDInc (Therapy Dog Incorporated) organization’s process of testing and registration.  In reading more and more about this organization’s process, I really do like how they test and register the dogs.  In order for a dog and handler team to be registered a dog must pass a basic obedience/temperament test and they must pass three or four observed/evaluated visits at various facilities.  I really like this aspect of seeing the dogs work in the field before officially registerring them–this allows and evaluator to step in and tell a handler that perhaps the dog doesn’t really want to be a therapy dog, or see how the dog will actually behave while in public (since how dogs behave in the test is often very different),  or see what type of reactions to dog will have to other dogs/people/equipment when in the real world, or see how the human parter works in the field.

Like I said, I’m not entirely sure if Rio wants to or will be a good therapy dog–although I know a lot about the job, I wasn’t sure how Rio would react in the real situation.  Well, we went on our first observed visitation yesterday and I was quite pleased with Rio.  While in therapy dog class, he’s been spooked on occasion by some equipment (I think it had more to do with how the equipment was being used) but while at our visitation he was rock solid.  Wheel chairs, motorized wheel chairs, walkers, oxygen tanks, IV bag stands, and some other special medical chairs/beds/etc were all moving around and he was great.  One of the residents was wildly moving her hands and repeating some word loudly over and over again and Rio stood near her and let her pet him and he was fine when she grabbed onto his collar.  He wasn’t really sure what was going on, but he was a very good boy!

There was one patient he was not so keen on greeting–he sniffed her a lot and let her get in a pet but then backed away from her in a way he didn’t do with the other patients.  It’s my job to respect him enough to not force him to interact with someone who concerns him, for whatever reason.  He greeted all the patients nicely and snuggled up to quite a few of them and was being super cute–they’d be gently petting him and if they stopped or he moved out of reach, he’d come back up and push his head under their hands.  He was quite calm and gentle with everyone–he only tried to crawl onto one person’s lap because she was having trouble reaching him, but he got down when I asked and then leaned into her, while up on his tippy toes, as far as he could so she could reach a little bit.

I don’t think he really knew what was going on but he was a good boy–I’m excited for the full workshop and another observed visit this weekend to see how he does.  But our first visit was at least a positive one–he’s not like the typical gregarious therapy dogs who are so excited to be snuggled, but I do think he enjoyed the attention, made quite a few friends, and he definitely made the patients smile.

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