In case you might not know, August and I basically treat our dog Eloise like she is our child. She truly brings us so much joy, that I feel like it’s a little unfair that we’re the only people who get to experience her bright disposition on a daily basis. Can she be a little hyper and does she pee a little bit every evening when we get home from work because she’s so excited? Well, yes in fact she does, but August and I have always said that Eloise only has 2 emotions, happy and excited, and that’s why when I saw this post by On Tap For Today where she mentions taking her adorable dog to the Children’s Hospital I knew that would be the perfect “job” for Eloise.
Taken directly from the Therapy Dogs International website, “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.”
In order to become “therapy” certified Eloise must complete 10 tasks, some of which I have no doubt she could do now, while others definitely need a little work. (More information and specifics about the test can be found on the Therapy Dogs International website).
1. Accepting a friendly stranger. Eloise is the worst guard dog on the planet and thinks that every person she meets should rub her belly.
2. Sit politely for petting.
3. Sit politely for grooming. She absolutely loves to be brushed and so far doesn’t seem to mind having her nails cut so I think she’ll handle this one ok.
4. Loose leash walking (try saying that 5 times fast) This was definitely Elly’s downfall in her beginner training course at Petsmart. She’s definitely a puller. We tried a muzzle harness and she disliked it so much that she grabbed it off the kitchen table the 1st night and chewed it up. I bought a body harness last night that’s supposed to help deter a dog from pulling so we’ll see how it goes.
5. Walk through a crowd. Eloise is very easily excitable around other people and dogs so August and I plan to start taking her to as many public places as will allow dogs to get her accustomed to being around lots of people.
6. Sit and down command. These were the basic commands she learned in her beginner’s training course.
And yes, August has started to teach her how to open the fridge by tugging on a rope he attached to the door handle. One day he hopes she’ll be able to open it, get him a beer, and close the door. He dreams big.
7. Coming when called. This was the 1st command we taught her so I’m not worried about this one.
8. Reaction to another dog. Other dogs are Elly’s weakness. She wants to play with every puppy whose path crosses hers.
9. Reactions to distractions. Since Eloise is still just a puppy (only 11 months) she’s pretty easily distracted. Hopefully with a little more training and a little more aging this will get better.
10. Supervised separation. August and I have always said we figure Eloise wouldn’t even notice if she one day had new owners. She just loves everyone so I’m sure she’ll pass this one with flying colors.
Dogs can’t be therapy certified until they’re one year of age. Since Eloise is just short of that and still needs quite a bit of work on some of the steps, we’re going to sign up for an intermediate training course that focuses on teaching the dog to respond to commands with distractions and if need be we can also take an advanced course. I’m really excited to increase Elly’s training and hopefully one day she’ll be bringing other people as much joy as she brings August and me.