Social Skills for Therapy Work

A therapy dog has had superior exposure to people, dogs, kids, sights, sounds, smells, the unusual, and the mundane. If your Golden puppy is to become a useful therapy dog, he must be exposed to just about anything and everyone you can think of. The more opportunities you have to expose your dog to new situations, and the more he learns that his obedience skills work everywhere, the better success you will have with him as a therapy dog.

Take your dog with you on walks. Stop and let him meet all kinds of people, young and old; of different races; in different dress and with various occupations. Socialize your dog to lots of other dogs, both big and small, and of every breed you can find. Let your dog play off-leash with all different types of dogs so that he learns how to play and interact with his own kind. Teach your dog to leave it when on leash around other dogs, and make sure he knows that he is not allowed to interact with other dogs when he is working. Here are some ideas for getting your dog ready for anything:

  • Take your dog downtown and train him in foot traffic.

  • Stand outside a grocery store and let people pat him as they go in and out.

  • Take your pup for a ride on public transportation.

  • Stand outside a school when the kids are being let out.

  • Go to the local park when the kids are playing ball and visit.

  • Invite friends over on a regular basis to help you train appropriate greetings.

  • Take your dog with you when you go to the post office or bank.

  • Walk your dog on a busy street now and then to accustom him to cars and trucks.

  • Hang out at a construction site and let your dog watch from a distance.

  • Sign your dog up for doggie day care to help him improve his social skills.

  • Visit parks and beaches where there are other dogs, and practice leave it and come.

  • Work on being able to call your dog out of a group of dogs that are playing.

  • Work on teaching your dog to leave other dogs on leash.

  • Teach your dog an appropriate on-leash greeting of sniff and sit.

  • Take your dog with you wherever you go, and work on his obedience and manners.

  • Working on your obedience commands around real-life distractions will help make your dog's response more reliable and his attention to you all that much greater. As a general rule, once you have established a behavior reliably, add distractions of varying difficulties right away.

    By training your dog in all kinds of different environments, you will be teaching him to ignore distractions and pay attention to you. Remember that you cannot expect your dog to magically know what you want or how to behave in an environment you have not taught him to behave in. So get out there, and get busy teaching him what to expect wherever you go.

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