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Monday, May 4, 2009

picking the right dog for the family & therapy dog work

Picking the right dog or puppy can be the key to success in any relationship. Therapy dog work can become mentally and in some cases physically exhausting for a dog. If you are an active person chances are you will want a dog that can keep up with you. When you and your dog have spent the day hiking you want to make sure that the dog will be physically able to make a scheduled therapy visit in the evening. On the other hand if you are not active and get a dog that lives for something to do, he may be too wound up to take on a therapy visit. Read up on the breed of dog you are interested in and match that breed to your life style. For example, while a Border Collie is smart and very good at agility it can become very destructive to your home and yard if not given the proper exercise and job to do. This same energy could be let loose during a visit, by jumping, pawing, or barking. While all dogs need and look forward to daily exercise with their owner, there are some breeds that do not require quite as much exercise. Make sure to do your homework when it comes to picking out the right breed for your family life style. This is also true with a mix breed dog that you may purchase from your local pound. A mix breed dog may carry many dog breeds all in one package. Ask the pound if they know what breeds of dog were mixed together that made up the particular dog you are looking at. Keep in mind that most breeds of dogs were bred to do a specific job. The Border Collie for instance, was bred as a herding dog, where as the Terrier type dog was bred as a rat dog. You can expect many holes in your yard if you pick a Terrier. They’re not being spiteful, just doing the job they were bred for. If you purchase a breed which was meant to hunt, like a German Short Haired Pointer you can expect that he is always on the prowl looking for game. A retrieving dog, such as the Labrador or Golden Retriever, has a great temperament but has the instinct to retrieve. Can you tolerate a dog that will most likely carry around your shoes and socks all day? Most importantly, will the dog be able to curb his natural desires while he is on a therapy visit if he hasn’t gotten his needs filled at home? This is why I stress that it is important to research the type of dog you want and to match it with your activity level and family lifestyle. There are plenty of books and web sites on different breeds, or you could go to a dog show and speak with an owner or handler who works with the breed you are interested in. Remember to keep in mind the grooming aspect of the breed you chose as well. Long haired dogs may require daily brushing and may need to be bathed once a month to keep shedding and tangled hair at a minimum. My therapy dogs are Newfoundlands and while their personalities are that of a gentle giant, the grooming required to keep them clean for a therapy visit is very time consuming even with daily brushing. They seem to have an attraction to mud and the rainy season exacerbates that delight even more! They also continuously drool, so on my therapy visits I must carry along kitchen towels to wipe their mouths. A shorter haired dog can easily be wiped down with baby wipes, non alcohol of course, to give it that fresh and clean look.

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