July 26, 2014 – By Kris Butler – Dogly behavior has become a popular Rx for affecting human behavior. In hospitals, treatment centers, schools, and in the midst of natural and man-made disasters all across the USA, something really important is happening. Therapy dogs are connecting with people in ways that enhance human healing, learning, self-awareness, and quality of life.
For every therapy dog, there must be a therapy dog handler. The experience of handling a therapy dog involves preparing one’s self and one’s dog to become the best therapy dog team you (both, together) can be. For both the dog and its handler, it’s an ongoing experience of “becoming.”
It’s important for anyone who aspires to become a therapy dog team with a dog to consider how you will prepare yourselves (plural – you and your dog) and how your human aspirations will affect your dog.
I recently finished viewing a new DVD produced by Christi Dudzik. Its title is “Developing & Nurturing the Therapy Dog Team Relationship” and that’s precisely the focus of this little jewel. Dudzik is a mental health professional, which accounts for her clinical expertise as well as her fondness for words like “nurturing.” I appreciate that Ms. Dudzik is not afraid to use the “L” word (“leader”) when referring to the handler’s role. She emphasizes safety and provides interesting visuals to demonstrate safe and effective behaviors while handling a therapy dog and interacting with people.
I have no financial interest in this DVD but – full disclosure – within one chapter of the DVD is a presentation with excellent visuals highlighting dogs’ perceptions of health care environments, with background text being read from the book Therapy Dogs Today: Their Gifts Our Obligation, which I wrote. Of course, permission was granted for the use of this text and, after viewing the DVD, I felt pride in having contributed to this work.
Whether you are already visiting in special care settings with your therapy dog or just considering the possibilities, this DVD will provide valuable and interesting information. Healing Paws is Christi Dudzik’s professional organization. There’s a trailer for the DVD at http://www.HealingPaws.com and it can be purchased there.
I love the process of teaching dogs skills they need to participate fully within their human families. I also have come to accept that I am a competitive person who enjoys preparing dogs to excel in performance events. Yet I have always had a strong desire to teach dogs to really benefit people. During the 1990’s I began to direct my education and my marketing efforts toward developing professional relationships with educators and health care providers and a national organization known then as Delta Society. I feel like the most fortunate trainer in the world to have had opportunities to train for the clinical and educational “arenas” in which my dogs and I have served and taught.
After years of having traveled literally all across the USA addressing the best ways to include dogs in clinical and educational environments, I decided to travel no more. I wrote Therapy Dogs Today: Their Gifts, Our Obligation in 2004. The book was actually a compilation of issues and concepts that had been presented within my Reaching People Through Dogs seminars. Succeeding beyond my expectations, the book sold to individuals and by the hundreds to volunteer groups, professional organizations, and to universities.
Ten years later, the little book was still selling nicely, and I decided it was time to update it. And so, Therapy Dogs Today: Their Gifts, Our Obligation – 2nd Edition was published. Reorganized and changed, Therapy Dogs Today – 2nd Edition contains the fundamental wisdom and some of the stories from the original version while interweaving the latest issues and newer roles for therapy dogs and their handlers.
This time, in addition to a retail book, we also produced a lower cost version (same text) for groups to purchase in quantity directly from publisher and an ebook that can be purchased online.Individual retail copies and ebook versions of the 2nd edition of Therapy Dogs Today can be purchased most easily from DogWise. http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTH227 Retail print and ebook versions are also available through Amazon.com.
Regardless our “arena,” whenever we place performance expectations on our dogs, we must first discover whether the behaviors being asked of each dog are in line with what that individual dog has the capacity to give. Is it (whatever “it” is) appropriate dogly behavior for this dog? We must proceed with the safety and well-being of all participants as our top priority. I hope that the two new resources introduced to you within this article prompt you to consider the benefits and challenges associated with dogly behavior in therapy dogs.
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