If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to become an Australian Therapy Dog team, Adam is here to share his experience.

In this 49th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Adam, a Social Worker in Australia, about his experiences working and volunteering as an Australian Therapy Dog team with his Golden Retriever Sophie.

Sophie is Adam’s first dog and when he experienced first-hand the healing impact that their relationship had on him, he began to look for ways to share her with his clients in his work at the hospital. On his journey, he found Lead the Way Insitute where he and Sophie trained together in simulated environments utilizing the power of praise as a reward for cues. After becoming a certified team together through Lead the Way Insitute, Adam and Sophie began volunteering together in addition to her joining him in Animal-Assisted Social Work

If you’re ready to learn more about their experience as an Australian Therapy Dog team, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • Why Adam thought Sophie would be a good fit for therapy work.
  • What their training process was like to become a certified therapy dog team.
  • How Adam has seen Sophie bring joy to those who they meet.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [01:42] Adam shares that he works as a Social Worker at the Royal Children’s Hospital where Sophie will be joining him soon and that currently they volunteer together at The Alfred Hospital where Adam used to work.
  • [02:06] Adam mentions that the field of pet therapy is unregulated in Australia but that they are certified through Lead the Way Institute where Sophie trained.
  • [02:53] Sophie was Adam’s first dog and he reflects on how their relationship had such a healing impact that he realized he could incorporate a similar experience into his profession to share the joy he’s received from her.
  • [03:31] Adam shares what it was he saw in Sophie’s temperament that led him to believe she would be a good fit.
  • [04:20] Adam describe the Therapy Dog training and testing experience he had with Sophie at Lead the Way Institute and the emphasis they placed on obedience cues.
  • [05:13] I inquire about the popularity of pet therapy in Australia and Adam believes that it’s in its infancy there.
  • [05:35] Adam shares how surprised he was that Sophie was so intelligent and was able to quickly pick up new cues. He also shared that it surprised him how praise driven their training was as opposed to focusing on food rewards.
  • [06:04] We talk about Golden Retrievers often becoming Therapy Dogs and a statistic Pet Partners shared with me during National Therapy Animal Day.
  • [06:39] Adam loves to see the impact Sophie has on those they work with and the sheer joy that she brings to her engagement with other.
  • [07:14] When asked about challenges in working together with Adam, he reflects that it hasn’t been a challenge at all but rather a helpful instrument in equalizing the power hierarchy with vulnerable children.
  • [08:04] Like others have shared, Adam shares that while the training to becoming a pet therapy team can be overwhelming and intense, the reward is worth it. He also advocates for you to trust your dog and not to put a glass ceiling on their ability
  • [08:48] I share a quick reminder to make sure that the dog is enjoying the work and not simply complying out of a desire to please their guardian or handler.
  • [09:47] Adam’s colleague Sarah chimes in to share how incredible it is to see a child’s face light up when working with Sophie, even via telehealth.
  • [10:14] Jared asks for some clarification on how Adam learned to reward Sophie with praise rather than treats.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.

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