Monday, September 16, 2013

Stop #1: The Road to Becoming A Therapy Dog

From the day I met Harrison, I have known there was something therapeutic about him.

He has this amazing, unexplainable, ability to sense sadness and pain. Harry has never missed an opportunity to strategically position himself beneath my hand when I need it most. His soft fur feels like cashmere and his giant head provides a comforting weight in the lap of those who welcome him. His sensitive soul, combined with his engaging and relaxed attitude, make him the ideal candidate for becoming a therapy dog.

A therapy dog is a dog that visits various places in the community (hospitals, nursing homes, schools, hospices, etc.) and provides affection and comfort to people in need. A therapy dog’s primary job is to remain calm while allowing people to pet/hug/cuddle with them. It requires a gentle disposition and a confident personality that can accept an abundance of friendly strangers. Becoming a therapy dog is no easy feat. Along with acquiring the appropriate training, there are many hoops to jump through before a dog is allowed to go out and begin spreading love.
Sunday morning, Harry took his first step toward achieving this goal. We met with Skip, of Daiger Dog Training ( to discuss Harry’s potential and work on a few necessary aspects of training. We practiced getting and keeping his focus and played a game of “Harry ping pong”. This basically entails Skip and I sitting on opposite sides of the room before taking turns saying his name. If he made eye contact he would receive positive reinforcement in the form of a treat. 

Harry’s biggest obstacle is lying down. Skip explained to me that certain breeds of dogs (especially bully breeds) are not naturally inclined to this command and that it would just take some patience and lots of treats. Aside from these minor training issues, Skip felt that Harry had the perfect temperament for a therapy dog.
In the afternoon, Harry and I spent some time downstairs alone, working on our “down” command. He had me in hysterics (and covered in drool) because every time I moved the treat along the floor to try to coax him down he showered me with kisses. Eventually we managed to achieve several “downs” and Harry was rewarded with some play time with his new rope toy.
For now, we are going to continue training until I feel that he is ready to take his Canine Good Citizen Test. Hopefully he will be ready for it soon!!


  1. This is going to be fun watching Harry become a therapy dog! Cannot wait for more stories.

  2. Harry is the only dog I love almost as much as my own. He is an absolute gift. I can't wait for the world to meet him, for him to help children and the elderly and the lonely, and for him to show the world just how wonderful pits are. Love you, Harry! Kisses from Aunt Dana :)

  3. Thank you Aunt Dana! Harry says you are the only woman he loves almost as much as his mom!! When he gets his therapy certification, he will make a special trip to Florida to visit you at work!

  4. I would be good at this type of ping pong! I prefer cheese flavored treats please. Love reading your blog Sarah!!!

  5. Good luck on the canine good citizen test! Found you on the newbie forum of BlogPaws. Wanted to visit and say hi!

    1. Ruckus! You have been so sweet to us, and don't think we haven't noticed. Thank you! Thank you. . .thank you!

      And trust us. . .we just love Ruckus the Eskie!