Maddie is training her Toy Goldendoodle Jovie to be a Social Work Therapy Dog.

In this fourth episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Maddie, a Masters in Social Work student in Central New York, to hear about her experience acquiring a certificate in Animal-Assisted Social Work and the journey that led her to finding, and training, her future animal partner—a Toy Goldendoodle she named Jovie.

Maddie started down this path when one of her professors who works with an organization called HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response introduced her to a friend who runs the Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate program at Slippery Rock University. In the program, Maddie had the opportunity to participate in internships with crisis response dogs as well as at a school with a teacher and their therapy dog.

When Maddie identified that her dog Millie wouldn’t be a good fit as a Social Work Therapy Dog, or enjoy the work, she began researching other options. Along the way she found it beneficial to work with a breeder who had experience with Therapy Dogs as well as a trainer who is also a Tester/Observer for Alliance of Therapy Dogs. 

(Update: Since recording this episode, Maddie has graduated and she and Jovie are now working together.)

If you’re ready to learn more about Maddie and Jovie’s journey, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • Maddie’s goals for Animal Assisted Social Work with her Toy Goldendoodle Jovie.
  • How she knew that her other dog, Millie, would not enjoy pet therapy.
  • What it was like to work with crisis dogs and how they differ from Therapy Dogs.


Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [02:00] Maddie shares how she had a chance to work with crisis response dogs through her Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate.
  • [02:42] A friend’s experience with an Emotional Support Animal taught Maddie the benefits of animals with mental health.
  • [02:53] A professor in Maddie’s Masters program works with HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response and connected her with the person running the Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate program at Slippery Rock University.
  • [03:26] Maddie talks about her other dog Millie and why she isn’t a good fit to be a Therapy Dog.
  • [04:15] Maddie shares why she selected a breeder who had experience with Therapy Dogs and what she was looking for in a prospective Social Work Therapy Dog.
  • [05:16] It took 13 days for Millie to play with Jovie for the first time but they’re good friends now.
  • [06:06] Maddie thinks Jovie will enjoy partnering in pet therapy because she loves people and attention.
  • [06:45] Maddie found a local evaluator for Alliance of Therapy Dogs who also does private training.
  • [07:37] The importance of proofing your dog’s cues in different environments.
  • [07:57] What drew Maddie to testing through Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
  • [08:17] Maddie gets honest about how even extensive research doesn’t really prepare you for your first puppy.
  • [09:22] While working on her certificate, Maddie saw the impact crisis dogs had on adolescent boys she worked with.
  • [10:05] What it takes to be a crisis response dog through HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response and how their training differs from Therapy Dogs.
  • [12:22] Maddie recommends researching as much as you can if you’re interested in becoming a pet therapy team. She mentions how she found it helpful to look for other Therapy Dog accounts on Instagram.
  • [12:48] Maddie talks about temperament testing and how the dog needs to enjoy the work of pet therapy.
  • [13:55] One of the teachers at the school where Maddie interned brought in her dog only on certain days so that they had time to rest. She would also let students know when the dog needed a day off.
  • [14:29] We talk about how Maddie started an Instagram account to share Jovie’s journey and has enjoyed doing so.

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.

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