Optimism Matters in Therapy Dog Training

by | June 22, 2023 | Blog

Learn how to have an optimistic mindset as a therapy team.

Have you noticed how some people and their pups maintain a positive outlook, even in challenging situations? Chances are both ends of the leash have worked on their optimistic mindsets. Having an optimistic mindset helps us to expect the good which serves as a powerful tool for Therapy Dog teams.

Why Optimism is Essential for Therapy Dog Teams

Think of optimism as your friend when you’re dealing with tough stuff. It’s like a voice inside you that says, “We’ve got this!” Optimism helps us see problems as chances to learn and keeps us going, even when things get hard.

For us handlers, being optimistic helps us do our best in every therapy session. It also protects us from getting too tired and helps us grow as people.

For our dogs, optimism is really important. It helps them stay calm and focused when things change around them. This is super helpful for their job as therapy dogs.

So, how can we help ourselves and our dogs become more optimistic?

Optimism for Therapy Dog Handlers

Building your optimism is a journey of small but meaningful steps:

  1. Dedicate some time each day to reflect on your interactions and experiences with your dog and others.
  2. Identify situations where you’ve faced challenges.
  3. Don’t allow the struggle to overshadow the growth. Focus on the lessons these challenges have brought you.
  4. Make a daily habit of jotting down three positive highlights of your day – moments that brought joy or a sense of achievement.

If you’re training your dog to be a Therapy Dog then chances are you have a strong relationship together which means your mindset impacts their optimism.

Building Optimism in Your Dog

Helping your dog grow in optimism requires patience, training, and plenty of positive experiences. A great way to start is with the “Noise Box Game,” an innovative approach by Absolute Dogs. Here’s how you can join in:

  1. Assemble safe, dog-friendly items that produce a variety of sounds.
  2. Situate these objects in a box or a large space where your dog can freely investigate.
  3. Encourage your dog as they interact with the objects, praising and rewarding their curiosity.
  4. Keep introducing new items in future play sessions. This practice will gradually turn unfamiliar situations into exciting adventures for your dog.
  5. Be patient and celebrate your dog’s progress, no matter how small they might seem.

In the games-based training world, we refer to this as training for the situation rather than training in the situation, but once you’re confident they’re expecting the good, you can open up the world like Lindsay shared in  Episode 46 of Therapy Dog Talk.

She helped her dog Tucker to build optimism and confidence in his new environment by taking him to sniff around their school during off hours. When he was ready, she grew his world and began bringing him to meet the students.

Dig Deeper in My Free Workshop

If you’re wondering what Life Skills for Therapy Dog Teams is all about or looking for a way to level up your optimism mindset alongside your pup then buckle up because Harnessing Optimism: Mindset Shifts for Successful Therapy Dog Teams is HERE – a free hands-on webinar for you and your best friend!

Don’t miss this chance to make your Therapy Dog team even better. Sign up now at sherrierohde.com/workshop. It takes place on June 23, so don’t wait!

A white woman with magenta hair in a grey sweater sitting on steps. A small tan dog with floppy ears is confidently perched on her lap.

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