I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd taken on some new responsibilities with my pet therapy organization as an evaluator for new dog/handler teams. The following is a story about one of my experiences while I was training- it will be published in our organizations newsletter; and I thought some of you might be interested in reading it.
"I'm not sure how this will go.", said Laura as she talked about the team she was about to pre-assess. As part of my training to become an evaluator for aspiring pet therapy teams, I was assisting Laura with a series of pre-assessments. Twoie was to be my last pre-assessment, and it sounded like I would learn alot. He was a 12 year old chow/golden mix, a rescue, and Laura had doubts that he could ever be a therapy dog.
It seems that when Laura first met Twoie and greeted him by petting his neck, he growled at her. During the pre-assessment itself, he again growled when he saw another dog, and he wouldn't allow his feet to be handled- he would pull them under his body to protect them. So Twoie didn't pass his pre-assessment that day.
When Laura explained to owner Jacqueline why Twoie didn't pass, Jacqueline said she would like to work with Twoie to see if she could help him to overcome his behavior issues. We set a date for a couple of months hence. But given his age and the number of issues Twoie had exhibited, I had my doubts that Twoie would pass the next test.
Here is where the story gets interesting. Laura told me that usually when people say they want to work with their dog and try again, she rarely hears from them. But Twoie and Jacqueline were the exception!
When I entered the room for the second pre-assessment session , I saw Jacqueline and friend Helen putting Twoie through his paces. They had both worked with Twoie during the weeks between the first and second assessments, and what a difference they made! I approached Twoie and roughly patted the side of his neck: he wagged his tail! They told me to ask for his paw, which the last time he had fearfully hidden: he wagged his tail and lifted his paw to be held! When he saw another dog in the area, he allowed it to approach and didn't growl! And Twoie passed the pre-assessment with flying colors!!
Jacqueline is Associate Chief Nurse, and an administrator, at the local VA Hospital where she works with Behavioral Health patients. Her ultimate goal, in her own words, is "to have a class at the hospital using several therapy dogs where patients can learn to open their hearts to unconditional love."
I don't have any doubts that Jacqueline can accomplish anything she puts her mind to, and that she will soon have her class at the hospital. She showed me that with patience and perserverance, things that look impossible can be accomplished. And she definitely proved to me that "You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!!'
(I think this is my first post after at least 2 years of lurking on this wonderful list.)
This is a fascinating story - one that perhaps deserves a broader circulation. Your local paper? Is there by chance a video of "before" and "after"?
So much of "training" our pets is really a matter of training ourselves to understand these family members.
Gives me some hope that I can "train" my daughter's smart-but-stubborn basset Kegger and even his hyper boxer-mix playmate to become therapy dogs or Canine Good Citizens.
Grandma to 4-leggers Kegger and Tynan
and to 2-legger Quinn