Therapy Dog

Share your experience and tell us how using positive reinforcement training methods has changed yours and your dogs' lives.

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Shalista
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Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:11 am

power of positive training!!!!!!!!!

Ye old old timers may recall when i first got bax 5 years(!!!!!) ago and he was terrified of people and borderline aggressive in his fear. at best he tolerated touch, at worst he'd hide and snarl and snap.

today i took bax through my nursing home and he loved every blessed second of it. definitely excited and stimulated but also still totally in love with working.

for starters i picked a good time and day. it was quiet and we negotiated the wheelchairs pretty easily till we came to an almost deserted hall with one man leaned half out of his wheelchair with his hand close to the ground calling bax. we approached and i put a treat in the mans hand. Bax was pretty over stimulated at this point and ignored the treat but i called him back a few times and he at last took and ate the treat and sniffed around for more. seeing that he was a bit to amped up i whisked him past the man into my residents room just behind him.

she loved him and more importantly he LOVED her. he instantly took treats out of her hand and kept running up mugging for snuggles. he did tricks, he got pets, it was awesome. not wanting to over stay my time with him we headed out after maybe 10 min of snuggles and treats.

there was now a woman with a walker next to the man with the wheelchair. we stopped to see them because bax said so and bax was a total doll. he mugged both of them for snuggles by putting his paws up on them and smearing his neck and head into their hands as though trying to get as close as possible into the snuggles. we stood chatting for maybe 5 min as bax got pets, did tricks, and the treat fairy made it rain.

he mugged every single person all the way back out for pets and snuggles like some kind of stunted golden retriever. it was epic <3

.... but all this wouldn't have been possible if id "forced him to confront his fears" like i was told to 100 times. Bax did this because HE wanted to at the pace he wanted to. if he didn't run up to someone we walked past and i didnt force him to say hi to them. and the treat fairy made it rain the whole time and he loved every blessed second of it.

Bax is not the perfect dog but i think he's healthier and happier in his dealings with people than he would have been if i had used more forceful methods with him.
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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JudyN
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by JudyN » Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:54 am

Finally, it all - or mostly, because this is Bax, after all :wink: - seems to be falling into place, and it's down to all the hard work you've put in :D So many people would have given up on him long ago.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:31 pm

oh ive been tempted SO many times to give up on him. im not a saint for sure :wink:

but looking back its CRAZY how far hes come. i remember thinking when i first got him "he's not a puppy anymore we're doomed to live like this forever".

if i could go back and tell my younger self anything (or anyone with a problem fur child for that matter) its that dogs are freakishly malleable. given enough time + treats + love + patience they can change sooooo much. i always had the DREAM of bax being a therapy dog but it was a DREAM, i never thought he'd actually make it. i was told so many times that he was set in his ways, that i needed to be realistic, that he could never do it, would never ENJOY doing it, even by well meaning people here on this board. and he did it. im just on cloud nine for him. cant wait till next weekend =)

also younger self? adopt a freaking senior shelter dog >.< .... love you bax but good GOD 5 YEARS to get here?
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

Lotsaquestions
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Lotsaquestions » Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:30 am

Shalista wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:11 am
like some kind of stunted golden retriever.
Fantastic news, and I just want to say I absolutely love this description. :lol:

Mr Bax the working dog.

Have you thought about writing a blog about him at therapy? Lots of people with fearful dogs might find it helpful to keep them going.

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Nettle
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Nettle » Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:48 am

Kudos to you for reading him so well and getting him out of each situation while he was still enjoying it - well done!
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Mon Apr 09, 2018 4:36 am

Nettle wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:48 am
Kudos to you for reading him so well and getting him out of each situation while he was still enjoying it - well done!
thats my goal. i got time, i can build up his comfort level. for now we're doing hit and run visitations :lol: get in and get out while he's still happy and build up his tolerance as he gets comfortable with the people and facility.
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sat Apr 14, 2018 1:17 pm

Bax had a so so day at the nursing home today.

for starters the car ride was awful. my battery was dead which i didnt find out until i got him all hooked up and he sat and shivered while i called around for a jump. took him inside. got the new battery. brought him back outside and hooked him up AGAIN.

once we got there he was very nervous. still took all the treats but besides the awful car ride the first person we met was the one whos iffy with dogs. (shes the one that got bit by the other dog). but, i figured id give her a chance and loaded her up with treats and REPEATED cues that Bax just LOVES getting the sides of his neck scratched (translation: stop reaching your hands over the top of his head you lumbering giant) we made some progress but bax was still skittish and uninterested in pets so we moved on.

we stopped in a few rooms (including the big therapy room) and he had middling success. some people got to land the occasional neck scratchy or back stroke but no major snuggles.

biggest win was bringing treats. he loved them and the res seemed happy just feeding him even if he didn't want any pets. nobody made any really aggressive overtures to grab him and he just pigged out on baked, salted, chicken. it was a double win because i dont think hes allowed up onto beds so the res on the beds could still engage with him even though they couldnt really get close to him.

at the very end he made one last pit stop at the therapy room and there was a dif res there. she's one of my favorites, (old stroke and cant speak but the nicest lady with a lovely smile) and bax LOVED her. he couldn't get enough of her. just kept smearing himself against her, rubbing into her hand. he was over the moon with her and she totally loved him. it was great.

so in conclusion:

still a win. Bax didn't go over threshold and seemed to enjoy himself eating treats even if he didnt really seem that into snuggles until the very end. Again, since all the res were bed or wheelchair bound if they pushed to far trying to pet him he just walked away and i was okay with that. but even the ones that seemed most agressive looking for pets were pretty happy just offering him treats and he took every treat he was offered with zero hesitation. even though he didnt really want snuggles once he knew someone had treats he'd put paws up for that even if he'd dodge hands trying to pet.

so not perfect, not as good as last time, but still a win. and i do think bax is still enjoying himself immensely. he had good body language and just seems to ENJOY being around people. alot of dogs i see can take or leave people, they just walk by with a collective "meh", but bax ALWAYS pulls to at least SNIFF someone as we're going by even if he doesnt want pets. he loved poking his nose into rooms. we got to see way more people than last time and stayed way longer and he never seemed like he was close to burning out. even as we were leaving he was tugging over to say bye to people. does he have impeccable manners? No. but he's friendly about being a disgrace of a dog :P

i do think that in a couple of months this shyness is gonna disappear and he'll cheerily mug EVERYONE for snuggles without any treats required.
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:55 am

Bax had a blast! he got snuggles from EVERYONE quite willingly (though with occasional bribery) and he even earned his stripes as a PROPER therapy dog, in that he helped with someones therapy! they had a woman in there with a recent stroke and they were having difficulty motivating her to move her arm across her body so i gave her a handful of treats, positioned bax on her bad side and had her throw treats across her body towards him! was a great success!!!!!!!!!!!
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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JudyN
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by JudyN » Sat Apr 21, 2018 9:50 am

He's just blossomed, hasn't he? You've done so well with him :D
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sat Apr 21, 2018 3:55 pm

he's not perfect! ill be the first to admit it. without treats i wouldn't be half so successful. but it DOES appear that the number of treats needed is decreasing and the number of snuggles saught after is increasing. :wink:
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

Lotsaquestions
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Lotsaquestions » Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:20 pm

That is just lovely news Shalista, I bet you're super proud.

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sun Apr 29, 2018 11:48 am

God he was a mercenary today. wouldn't do ANYTHING without food. only two or three people that he'd really snuggle with.

the good news is ive now trained him to put his paws on my leg and eat treats because that gives him the few inches needed to let the wheelchair people pet him (hes a bit to short otherwise)

I also said heck with it and since i wasn't explicitly told no i started putting him up on peoples beds (ALWAYS asked first of course) and there he really shined. i think it's cause he always does snuggles with me in bed in the morning and night time but he climbed right up on them and gave them kisses and snuggles.

One lady in a chair asked for me to put him up in her lap and he did great with that to.

Ive also started picking him up and setting him on my leg for people to pet him and he seemed a lil nervous but okay with it (I let him hop off when he wanted to)

Still having great success working with him with a focus on consent. if he doesn't wan to stick around, we move on. if he doesn't want pets from someone, we move on. But I'm not above luring him with treats to hang out with someone for a bit even if he doesn't want to be TOUCHED by them :roll:
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sat May 05, 2018 2:35 pm

zomg bax just hit a massive milestone. he not only LAY DOWN on someones bed and let her pet him quietly but he also offered her the Armpit of Trust and Affection that he normally reserves for all his favorite people. i had to explain to a 90+ year old mostly deaf lady that he was not, in fact, offering his paw, he wanted his armpit scratched. BEST DAY EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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Shalista
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by Shalista » Sat Jul 28, 2018 11:13 am

Bax his another milestone, he hit up TWO units today, hung out with a res for maybe twenty min of continuous snuggles and then went to the pet store where he mooched for MORE snuggles. normally i let him dictate when its time to go home but he just kept going and going with no signs of stress or anything but love. so proud of my lil man!
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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JudyN
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Re: Therapy Dog

Post by JudyN » Sat Jul 28, 2018 11:36 am

Well done both of you :D
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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