You might be thinking about therapy dog training for your Australian Shepherd. The breed is known to be highly successful at this and many other tasks. They can be trained for search and rescue, guiding the handicapped, and simply as companions.
Their history as herding animals means that they have a natural "trainability", as do similar breeds. However, it is important to remember that each dog is different. We can only talk about breeds in general terms. Aussies have a tendency to be calm and friendly, but they can also be hyperactive or wary of strangers.
When we are thinking about training therapy dogs, we look for ones that can handle long periods of physical inactivity. They will offer comfort and companionship to nursing home patients and visit sick children in hospitals. They might work in a mental institution or visit libraries. Being able to be quiet for long periods of time is a requirement.
Maggie, who is 5-years-old here, is a member of Therapy Dogs International. We visit two sites on a regular basis. We go to a MOSAIC home and visit with folks with physical and mental disabilities. We also visit a day care facility for folks with disabilities. When we visit Maggie demonstrates her agility abilities and her skills with a frisbee and tennis ball. She also shakes hands and gives kisses and love.
Basic commands and obedience must be taught before special therapy dog training can begin. The dog must be housebroken and understand the commands come, sit and stay. He or she must not be afraid of or aggressive towards strangers. Protectiveness is not a desirable trait in this case.
When they are puppies, you start by exposing them to lots of other people. You shake hands with other people, hug and touch. It helps the puppy learn that other people are "okay".
When they are still very young, it’s a good idea to walk them in public places where there are crowds and unusual noises. If they seem frightened, they might outgrow it. Eventually, they should be able to walk calmly and quietly next to a parade or carnival.
Certain behaviors are unacceptable. Puppies must be taught at an early age not to jump up, sniff people, bark, lick or growl. Biting is never acceptable even for household pets.
Regular grooming and veterinary visits are always important for pups. When it comes to training therapy dogs, it is particularly important. Being touched, brushed, groomed and examined will prepare the dog for the physical examination that is part of the AKC Canine Good Citizen Certificate Test.
Start with our official ebook Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care. It was created by Aussie lovers for Aussie lovers. You can read this practical guide on any computer, tablet, or smartphone.
The Canine Good Citizen Certificate is one of the Therapy Dog International (TDI) requirements. During the test, your dog must be able to walk with you on a loose leash, without pulling or straining. He will need to learn the command "heel", which shows that you are in full control.
When other animals are encountered, the ideal candidate will not growl, bark or bite. He or she will not attempt to show dominance or show more than a friendly, casual interest.
As you can see, there is more to think about than what you would consider for a family pet. We often teach our children to be gentle with their pets in order to avoid being nipped. Therapy animals must be able to ignore a tug on the ear or a pull on the fur. As the owner, you will be responsible for handling your dog.
Dog/handler teams are tested by TDI. A complete list of TDI requirements can be viewed online. Some of the requirements for training therapy dogs apply specifically to the handler. Here are a few examples. The handler must:
A dog’s deafness or blindness is an immediate disqualification, regardless of temperament or training. Homozygous or double merle Australian Shepherds can have hearing and visual impairments due to genetic defects. Other breeds have a similar predisposition to the genetic defects.
While therapy dog training is not easy, it can be a rewarding experience. Testing is inexpensive and special classes are not required for TDI certification.
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