#049: Australian Therapy Dog team Adam and Sophie

by | September 19, 2022 | Therapy Dog Talk

Australian Therapy Dog team Adam and Sophie

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 Szmulewicz, a Social Worker in Australia, and his wonderful Golden Retriever, Sophie, about their inspiring journey as an Australian Therapy Dog team. They work together to bring joy and healing to those they meet, and we dive into their experiences and the training process.

Adam shares how his first dog, Sophie, had a healing impact on their relationship, which inspired him to introduce her into his professional work. They trained together at the Lead the Way Institute, focusing on obedience cues and using praise as a reward. Despite the field of pet therapy being unregulated in Australia, Adam and Sophie are certified through the institute.

We discuss the growing popularity of pet therapy in Australia and the commonality of Golden Retrievers as therapy dogs. Adam highlights the incredible impact Sophie has on the people they work with, and how she can help equalize the power hierarchy when working with vulnerable children.

Adam encourages others interested in therapy dog work to trust their dogs and not to limit their abilities. He believes that while the training process can be intense, the rewards are well worth it. We also touch on the importance of making sure the dog is enjoying the work and not just complying out of a desire to please their guardian or handler.

After listening to this episode, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the joys and challenges of being an Australian Therapy Dog team, and valuable insights into preparing your canine companion for this rewarding work.

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 works as a Social Worker at the Royal Children’s Hospital, and Sophie will soon join him there. They also volunteer together at The Alfred Hospital.
  • [02:06] In Australia, the pet therapy field is unregulated, but Adam and Sophie are certified through the Lead the Way Institute.
  • [02:53] Sophie is Adam’s first dog, and their relationship inspired him to incorporate her into his professional work.
  • [03:31] Adam saw something special in Sophie’s temperament that made him believe she’d be a good fit for therapy work.
  • [04:20] Adam and Sophie’s therapy dog training at the Lead the Way Institute emphasized obedience cues.
  • [05:13] According to Adam, pet therapy is still in its infancy in Australia.
  • [05:35] Adam was surprised by Sophie’s intelligence and how quickly she learned new cues. He also noted their training was praise-driven instead of food-driven.
  • [06:04] We discuss how Golden Retrievers often become therapy dogs and a statistic from Pet Partners during National Therapy Animal Day.
  • [06:39] Adam loves seeing the positive impact Sophie has on those they work with and the joy she brings to others.
  • [07:14] Adam finds working with Sophie to be a helpful tool in equalizing the power hierarchy with vulnerable children, rather than a challenge.
  • [09:47] Sarah, Adam’s colleague, shares the incredible experience of watching a child’s face light up when interacting with Sophie, even through telehealth.

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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