Therapy Dog Testing

This past weekend, I had an amazing opportunity to join some of my colleagues in the dog-world at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) for Therapy Dog Testing.

We had six people and their seven dogs who were to be tested together in order to gain Therapy-Dog status. The testing is not as intense as I had been expecting, but there were some tough parts that made it interesting to say the least.

First, we test out the relationship between the dog and handler to see what the response is to basic commands. We test “sit”, “stay”, “come” and “down”, then test them as they walk through a crowd of people. We also walk up to the dog and pet him/her to see how they react to different people approaching them with various levels of enthusiasm. This means that if your dog reacts poorly to being petted by a heavy hand or a clumsy, stumbling, loud person, you probably won’t be passing the test.

The point is to put the dog in various situations that may be stressful and see how he/she reacts. When we bring our therapy dogs into facilities, there are so many different kinds of people that they’ll meet. Some, with mental health issues who may be a little loud and more heavy-handed than the average person; some, with disorders/diseases that may intimidate a dog, like Parkinsons or Tourettes.

As this was my first time assisting with the testing, I got to play the loud, drunk, heavy-handed gal. I’m pleased to say that they each passed that test with flying colours. 🙂

We throw metal bowls on the floor and make a racket to see how the dog reacts to the sounds that they would normally hear in a hospital-type setting. We throw treats on the floor in front of them and see if they lunge for them or wait for the “release” command to eat it. This is probably the hardest one, but also the most important in a way. Pills can get dropped on the floor and if a dog ingests it, who knows what could happen…

It was so interesting to watch each step and every situation that was tested, as well as how calm the dogs were. A lot of work goes into training these dogs, and they make such a difference in the community.

Do you have a dog that you are interested in training to be a therapy dog? If so, let me know and I’ll help you get there. You can also visit http://www.deltasociety.org for more information on registering.

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