Building a Calmer Therapy Dog Team

by | June 3, 2023 | Blog

Learn how to grow calmness as a Therapy Dog team.
Therapy dogs and their handlers need to stay calm. But staying calm isn’t easy—it takes practice. Kilyn, who spoke on Episode 81 of Therapy Dog Talk, takes her dog Bubbles for a walk before therapy visits. The walk helps Bubbles stay calm. Let’s talk about why calmness is important and how you can help your dog team stay calm.

Why is Calmness Important?

Being calm helps you and your dog to work better together. When you’re able to stay calm, you can focus on your work and understand the people you help. You can also communicate better with your dog. Your dog also needs to be able to stay calm. They meet many different people and experience a lot of things. Staying calm helps them do their job better. In Episode 69 of Therapy Dog Talk, Brian talked about how his dog Magnus intuitively knew how to comfort a patient, laying next to her and allowing her to pet him until her breathing slowed down and she felt at ease. Dogs that are calm can also understand cues better, making them more effective in their roles. So, how can you and your dog stay calm?

Building Your Calmness

Building your calmness requires self-awareness, patience, and practice. Here’s one technique you can use to build calmness in yourself:
  1. Try PMR: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is one way to stay calm. To do PMR, find a quiet place and breathe deeply. Tense your muscles for 5 seconds, then relax. If you practice regularly, you’ll be more relaxed when you work with your dog.
  2. Include your dog: If your dog likes being close to you, do PMR together. This can help both of you stay calm.
Tamara from Episode 76 of Therapy Dog Talk shared that once she decided to stop putting the pressure on her dog Ginger and herself, they both calmed down.

Helping Your Dog Stay Calm

Building calmness in your dog involves patience, practice, and reward. Here’s a fun activity to help:
  1. Do a figure of eight: With your dog on a leash, walk in a figure of eight. Start at their pace and then slowly change it. Reward your dog calmly periodically during this exercise. This activity can teach them that life has different speeds and can improve their focus.
  2. Change things up: Practice the figure of eight in different places and at different speeds. Try changing directions, too.
Lindsay from Episode 46 of Therapy Dog Talk brought her dog Tucker’s bones in the morning to calm him down. You can find similar ways to help your dog stay calm.

Calmness is Part of the Puzzle

Staying calm is an important life skill for Therapy Dog teams. You and your dog also need to be confident, resilient, and balanced by setting boundaries and practicing self-care.

Are you ready to learn more about these skills? Then my course, “Life Skills for Therapy Dog Teams,” is perfect for you. This course will help you and your dog to grow in your relationship and be even more effective in therapy visits.

Don’t miss this chance to make your Therapy Dog skills even better. Enroll now at sherrierohde.com/course!

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