Certified dog trainer Michelle knows how important it is to understand what her Therapy Dog, Pippin, needs on their visits.

In this 33rd episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with certified dog trainer Michelle of Pooch Parenting who volunteers through First Responder Therapy Dogs with her dog, Pippin. In addition to her Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) credentials, Michelle is also a Licensed Family Dog Mediator (LFDM-K) and Behavior Counselor. It’s safe to say she knows her stuff when it comes to working with dogs. Lucky for us, she generously shared her insights on greeting dogs and working with Therapy Dogs through the lens of her own experiences.

Michelle’s background has provided her with the ability to really read Pippin and understand what it is he enjoys about pet therapy work and also which environments just weren’t the right fit for him. She has learned how to advocate for Pippin and to use those moments where he doesn’t want to say hi as an opportunity to educate others on how to greet a dog. As an expert in this space, Michelle knows that dog bites are preventable and spreads awareness on how to prevent them.

Her biggest advice to prospective Therapy Dog teams is to “Go in with an optimistic goal in mind, but not to be attached to that because ultimately your dog is the one who has to decide if they enjoy the job.” Animal Welfare is crucial when working or volunteering as a pet therapy team and it is up to you to recognize whether or not your dog (or other therapy animal) is enjoying meeting new people and is comfortable in the environments you volunteer or work in.

If you’re ready to hear more from Michelle about her experiences volunteering with Pippin, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • How Michelle knows that Pippin enjoys volunteering as a Therapy Dog.
  • What she is looking for in adding a second Therapy Dog to the family.
  • How important it is to listen to your dog and put their needs first.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [00:35] Michelle shares about her role as a dog and child specialist through her company Pooch Parenting.
  • [01:22] Therapy Dogs weren’t new to Michelle so when her friend Heidi founded First Responder Therapy Dogs she decided it would be a good opportunity for her to volunteer with her dog Pippin.
  • [02:22] Michelle talk about how the hospital suits Pippin’s personality and gives him the freedom to choose.
  • [03:08] Listening to your dog even if it’s not what you want can be the hardest part of being a Therapy Dog team.
  • [04:13] Michelle was a certified dog trainer before becoming a Therapy Dog handler and also raised a service puppy through an organization that teaches students how to raise Service Dogs and shares how these experiences taught her how to get dogs used to being comfortable in the real world and busy environments (e.g. hospitals).
  • [06:13] Michelle approached volunteering with Pippin with optimism and took note about his behavior to determine which environment would be best for him and what type of Therapy Dog work he would enjoy.
  • [07:41] How Michelle and Pippin’s work has evolved over time at the hospital and who he loves the most.
  • [09:08] Things to say when your therapy animal doen’t want to say hello to someone.
  • [09:40] We talk about how most dog bites can be prevented if you understand dog behavior and body language and how, as discussed in the short Stop the 77, 77% of dog bites to children are by a known dog.
  • [10:30] Michelle talks about how she asumed Pippin would like different things than what he does but was pleasantly surprised at how clearly he can communicate what it is that he enjoys or dislikes.
  • [10:53] It makes Michelle’s day to see how much joy Pippin brings to the people they visit.
  • [12:02] Michelle’s biggest advice for a prospective pet therapy team is that you have to know your dog.
  • [12:18] What Michelle plans to share with a breeder when looking for a dog that she hopes to volunteer with.
  • [13:36] If you’re watching the video recording, you can meet Pippin!
  • [14:00] If you’re watching the video, you can meet Michelle’s foster puppy Brodie! She also talks about how Brodie is entering a fear period in his developmental stage and shares how she helps him through this time.
  • [15:37] We talk about how fostering can be a great way to help shelter dogs while looking for a future Therapy Dog.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a listen and let me know 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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