I always had a dream that one day I’d have my own therapy dog. I just love their nature, the support they provide, and I like to give something back to the community or those in need.
Many people also have a desire for their dog to be a therapy dog or decide to get a dog to help themselves or a family member as a support dog either as an emotional support or medical assistant dog. Not only will they be a loved pet who offers companionship, they will also have an important role within the family and be extremely well-mannered.
However, the required behaviour traits can in no way be guaranteed in any dog, even those who are bred from a line of assistance dogs don’t always make the cut. Their temperament must be spot on and they have to demonstrate the right credentials at a very young age as training has to start immediately.
It’s important to note that a puppy’s overall temperament is usually pre-disposed: you can’t always change this by training them. You can improve behaviours and get them to follow instructions through training but whether they are calm, crazy, gentle, rough, quiet or excitable is in their genes.
A happy compromise
Sadly for my dream, I’ve simply not ended up with a dog with the right temperament yet. Leo was amazing but was wary of sudden noises/movements so wouldn’t have coped in some environments. Dave, although loveable and uber-friendly, would be too boisterous to become a therapy dog. Remy would be simply amazing however has attachment issues we're working on. But, just because they weren’t cut out for an official therapy dog role, doesn’t mean they aren’t able to enrich our lives immeasurably.
My eldest daughter is autistic and has anxiety disorder. Remy is exactly what she needs as he loves to just cuddle up and is happy to be stroked and given attention for as long as she wants. Sadly due to his current attachment issues with me, he wouldn’t pass the requirements to be her official support dog - yet.
How can I get the right type of puppy?
I’m more than happy with my personal compromise in terms of having an “amateur support dog” but if you are really considering an owner-trained support dog here are some tips:
- Where possible try to through official channels to find fully trained assistance dogs or contact official charities to provide support for owner-trained support dogs.
- Do your research into which breed you want (remember different breeds are good for different things) and make sure you look hard for signs of the dog’s temperament before you commit
- Don’t have unrealistic expectations: you may need to consider a plan B if things don’t work out with your assistance dog training.