Three years ago our “founding therapy dog,” Opie Jack Russell Terrier, canine partner of our President, Judi Anderson-Wright, sadly passed away. Since then Judi has been grieving, healing and contemplating – what next? Today we know the answer. We are so excited to announce that she has found her new partner, a Jack Russell Terrier Puppy named, “Tater Tot.”
One of the top requests we get is from people asking to us to train their puppies to become therapy dogs, or they want to take our classes with the belief it will make their puppies into therapy dogs. The thing is, it’s just not that simple. It’s not about taking a class, similar to a puppy obedience class, and voila! You will have a therapy dog! Because of this we have decided to share the journey of selecting, raising and training Tater Tot to let you know what really goes into developing a certified therapy dog. And truth upfront, we don’t know for sure at this early stage Tater will actually make it. It’s one of the reasons we want to share the story. There are no guarantees when getting a puppy that they can or will become a therapy dog.
Of course, all puppies are different and not everything that happens with Tater Tot will be relevant to every puppy, but by sharing his story, we hope to help people understand what raising a puppy to be a therapy dog really involves.
There are some guiding principles and ways to approach selecting a puppy that will maximize the chances that you will end up with the therapy dog you hope for and we will try to explain those to the best of our ability.
One of the most important things is to keep an open mind and try to be as objective as possible. If your puppy isn’t meant to be a therapy dog there are many other activities and experiences you can share that are enriching and enjoyable for both of you. So above all, be honest with yourself and don’t force your dog to comply to an activity that you really want to do, but he or she does not. Be sure it’s something that is fulfilling for both you AND your dog.
Also keep in mind that while Project Canine certifies therapy puppies, other organizations do not. The qualities required to be a therapy puppy are in many ways opposite to how puppies naturally are. The average age of a therapy dog is 4-6 years old. If your dog is not able to be a therapy puppy or a therapy dog as a young dog, give them time to mature and grow up. Therapy visits are actually incredibly challenging on many levels and most dogs need time to develop to be ready.