12-24-2014, 12:30 PM
Join Date: Jun 2013
Mentioned: 16 Post(s)
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In my local chapter of TDI, we have around a hundred handlers and dogs, and there's everything from chihuahuas and toy poodles to mastiffs and Swiss Bernese Mountain dogs. My own TDI dog is a 24 lb. terrier mix. In our individual testing group of four (they split the twenty or so dogs testing that day into groups of four so they could really concentrate on the work of the handlers/dogs), all of whom passed, there was a Great Dane, a Cairn terrier, an Airedale, and my terrier mix.
At the last large pack event which my dog and I attended--a remembrance service sponsored by a local funeral home--there were about twenty dogs, the smallest of which was a tiny Shih Tzu and the largest of which was Landseer Newfoundland. There were golden retrievers but there were also Shelties and German shepherds and bichons and poodles and mixes...you name it, and we probably have one in our chapter.
What's really most important is that you get the dog with the right temperament, regardless of the breed. The first thing my dog did when the people at the shelter placed him in my arms was to roll over on his back and start licking my face. I was also able to get him to sit and shake on that visit, and he walked reasonably well on a leash. I was then able to watch him interact with other dogs and people of a variety of ages, all of which he did just fine. It was a long visit before I signed those papers, but it was time well spent, because it gave me a good idea of his personality. If you have a particular therapy group in mind (Pet Partners, TDI, Delta Society etc.), you might check out their individual testing requirements and keep them in mind when you're looking at individual dogs. I went with TDI just because that's the active group in this area, and I knew someone with two dogs certified through TDI. Oh, and if you're interested in the AKC therapy dog titles (and mutts can qualify for them too), you might want to look to see which certifications they accept for their titles. There are several different groups that they've okayed; I know TDI is one of them but there are four or five others too.
The other thing to be aware of is that some dogs have a therapy preference--they just light up more, say, with older people or with children. My dog was beyond happy doing an end of semester therapy event at a local college, so I may look into seeing if they'd like to have more regularly scheduled events; the students I spoke to were certainly enthusiastic about the idea of being able to play with dogs more often. As one student put it, "There's always midterms too. Or Tuesdays. Tuesdays would be good." Two others played with him for fifteen minutes or so (they signed up for fifteen minutes therapy "appointments") and then sighed and said, "Now it's back to chemistry and physics."