My Journey to a Therapy Dog – Month 11

By Sarah White, Occupational Therapist

Teddy, continues to attend dog obedience classes, while I have continued to do my homework in regards to understanding canine behavior and appropriate interactions between people and other animals. My last continuing education course titled Animal-Assisted Interventions: Accelerating the Therapeutic Alliance, presented by Christine Strayer Thornton, provided me with even more studies and research on the positive effect animals have on people of all ages and abilities. The therapeutic relationship between humans and animals dates back to at least the eighteenth century. Trained animals were then used in mental institutions. The presenter described “biophilia hypothesis” which is the instinctive bond between humans and other living things. She described the difference between animal assisted activities (which do not have treatment goals) and animal assisted therapy (which is goal-directed with the animal meeting specific criteria). Teddy is being trained as an animal assisting with activities, not as part of the therapy plan. He will be present, but not actually part of the therapy plan.

Teddy has passed his American Kennel Club AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Test. S.T.A.R. stands for Socialization, Training, Activity, and Responsibility. He is scheduled to take the Canine Good Citizen test in June. I have been in contact with a dog owner coach who has provided me with lots of useful information. Teddy is also scheduled with Pet Partners in order to be evaluated as part of a therapy team. He is still very young and needs lots of socialization. He visits me at work Friday afternoons, when there is little to no contact with students. He is getting used to the building and the smells. I have discovered that he is very fearful of manhole covers! Teddy likes to be on the move and will pace with me on his leash when he is nervous. He is learning to settle down and relax. A lot of this comes with age and maturity. He will be one year old at the end of June.

Hopefully, Teddy’s next update will bring more exciting news!