What’s it like to be a Therapy Dog in Training? Taylor is here to share her experiences and expectations with her Labradoodle.

In this second episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I sat down with Taylor to hear about her experiences and expectations with her Therapy Dog in Training, Benson aka “Benny”. Taylor is a mental health advocate and can trace her interest in therapy dogs back to her time working with an on-campus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illnes (NAMI).

At the time of this recording, mini Labradoodle Benson is almost two years old and is two months into his training journey for pet therapy. Taylor and Benson participated in an eight week course through Canine Coach that prepared them for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) exam as well as the Therapy Dog evaluation from both Pet Partners and Therapy Dogs International (TDI). Taylor plans to register through Pet Partners as she feels most at home in clinical environments and the ones in her area predominately work with Pet Partners.

In talking about our respective training journeys, we get transparent about our non-linear imperfect journeys with our (hopefully) future canine therapy partners. We discuss the importance of the dog enjoying the work as well as the handler and how it might turn out that we decide Therapy Dog team is not the right path forward for either of us—and that’s okay.

If you’re ready to hear more about Taylor’s journey with her Therapy Dog in training Benson, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • How Taylor coordinated with Therapy Dogs while in college.
  • The importance of an open mind while working towards becoming a pet therapy team.
  • What it’s been like to train a Mini Labradoodle while the world is shut down.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

  • [01:30] We dicuss how the CGC certification is not required for all Therapy Dog organizations but that it is a good foundation for training towards becoming a Therapy Dog.
  • [01:53] Taylor explains the Canine Coach program they’re participating in while Benson is a Therapy Dog in training.
  • [03:02] How Taylor views CGC as a checklist for training her dog.
  • [03:13] We talk about how perfection is not required and get real about our training journeys.
  • [03:54] Taylor’s parents’ dog Oliver say hello.
  • [04:36] Taylor talks about her involvement leading a college chapter of the Natinal Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and how they would bring Therapy Dogs to meetings and on-campus events. 
  • [05:12] The reality of bringing a puppy home during a global pandemic and what that meant for their training journey.
  • [05:36] Taylor gets real about the uncertainty in training towards becoming a pet therapy team.
  • [06:17] An explanation of the Pet Partners rules around dog treats during the test and on therapy visits.
  • [07:21] We discuss how different each volunteer organization is in their requirements and opportunities.
  • [08:21] Taylor shares how she feels at home in clinical settings and why that make her want to volunteer with Benson through a dog therapy program in. aclinical environment.
  • [09:04] The importance of the handler feeling confident while working a a Therapy Dog team. 
  • [09:45] Taylor shares their struggle with separation anxiety and Benson’s adjustment to them being gone more.
  • [10:10] Benson’s experiences with the neighbor kids and how it has helped prepare him.
  • [10:48] Taylor’s commitment to training but acknowledgment that it’s contingent on Benson enjoying the work.
  • [11:50] Benson’s ability to quickly pick up on learning in a structured training setting.
  • [12:56] Taylor’s advice to enter the training journey with an open mind and no expectations.
  • [13:29] A reminder that both the handler and the animal need to enjoy pet therapy in order to be successful.

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!

Mentioned in this episode:

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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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