First let me start with the fact I do not represent any organization not TDI (Therapy Dogs International) nor do I represent our local TDI chapter this article is how I was able to get involved in TDI from start to finish and is my opinions and experiences only.
TDI, I have always enjoyed volunteering and I love dogs, once I heard about Therapy Dogs International, AKA TDI it seemed like liked the perfect fit. Volunteering with my dog!
According to http://www.tdi-dog.org/About.aspx?Page=Getting+Started
“A Therapy Dog is born, not made. Yes, one can teach a dog mannerly behavior, but one cannot change a dog’s inherent temperament. When a dog is put under stress, poor or marginal temperament will surface. Therefore: What are we looking for? A Therapy Dog must have an outstanding temperament. This means that the dog should be outgoing and friendly to all people; men, women, and children. The dog should be tolerant of other dogs (of both genders) and non-aggressive toward other pets. Before you consider having your dog evaluated, you should ask yourself if your dog has these qualities.” If the above qualities describe your dog than TDI might be for you.
TDI the journey, I started off taking basic obedience classes as soon as Gracie was old enough. She is my Merle colored Great Dane. I knew therapy work was for her as she LOVES everyone and everything. She sees a person and instantly she starts her whole body wiggle. Your dog must be able to sit, stay (with you leaving your dog), lay down, leave it, heel, come when called and ignore distractions. Having the basics down is essential before attending TDI manners class. How did I train my dog? I started with a lot of socialization as soon as her vaccinations were done, in many different environments and people. Beyond that I made sure every experience was positive! Simply exposing your dogs is not enough! (See for more information: https://www.puppyculture.com/?a_aid=57ee895db898d , as Jane Killon does a great job on this topic). I also had strangers give her treats, which I brought, to get her used to strangers and making sure it was rewarding for her as a young pup. I also had them say “let me see” and look in her ears and mouth from about 4 months on, take this with a grain of salt as I am not responsible if your dog bites someone….. I use a lot of positive reinforcement and took classes with other dogs to get her used to having to ignore other dogs. We practice manners every chance we get. I have always lived by the moto dog training is a lifestyle! Every interaction with our dogs, we are teaching them something. My dogs always eat after I do, and must “work” for their food. They have to sit and stay until I tell them they can go to their bowls to eat, my oldest Gracie eats first and then our puppy does. I also do not free feed my dogs, and I always make my dogs wait before going out or in a door as humans have the right of way (this comes in handy on the TDI test). My dogs always must sit or lay down before I pet them and remain calm, if they get excited I leave and come back and we try again, I do the same if a stranger wants to pet them. I also ignore my dogs and expect everyone to, when they come over. Once the dogs are calm than they can get reinforced for their good behavior and get attention. My dogs also get plenty of exercise! Two walks a day and we practice Rally, obedience, tracking, or other forms of nose work (these are things I love doing with my dogs, very good mental stimulation, and I do them throughout the day for short periods of time). If your dog has the basics down, we are fortune that our local chapter offers TDI manners classes before the test. It was a great way to get Gracie used to the place we were going to test at as well as medical equipment. On the day of testing my stomach felt like it was tied in knots and my heart was beating faster than humming bird wings…But we PASSED! Gracie also got her CGC and CGCA! To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement, considering I had been working towards her become a therapy dog for over a year! This was the first time I got a title on a dog ever. Now we are able to spread the love. We do 2-3 monthly pack visits to various locations and I do a weekly visit to an adult day care setting, and soon will be adding another place we will visit weekly. It is true what they say about volunteering, “Your own soul is nourished, when you are kind” (Proverbs 11:17 Living Bible, TLB).