When a Greyhound retires from racing his/her life does not have to be that of a total couch potato, there are many things that you and your Greyhound can do together.
Everyone knows Greyhounds make great pets. They also make exceptional therapy dogs! A therapy animal, is a team made up of a specially trained dog and human that volunteer to provide emotional and physical assistance to those in need. Many therapy animals visit with children in hospitals, rehab units, the elderly in nursing homes, read with children in libraries, provide the heart-canine connection with at risk youth and violence prevention centers and even prisons.
Due to the Greyhound’s unique upbringing and training, they are a calm and resourceful canine that leans against people and is rewarded through strokes and pets. A hound must be well schooled to be handled to race at the track and is socialized to a wide variety of people–from farmers, to grandchildren, to vets, to lead-outs, to adoption people. They are eager to earn praise, and because all of these people have cared for the, they equate people with nurture and care. Due to their size, Greyhounds are tall enough for those that are wheelchair or bed bound to pet, scratch and for the hound to place his/her head in a lap.
There are many venues for therapy do work in your community. Once adopted, it is wise to take a basic manners class with a skilled instructor, preferably one accredited through CCPDT (Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers) visit www.APDT.com to find a certified trainer near you who has the background and education to handle a Greyhound. Greyhounds learn slightly different than other breeds because they haven’t been asked to “sit” (Greyhounds can and do sit) or perform for food rewards. they do it because it pleases them. Once they have learned the cause and effect of a good reward based system, a Greyhound can learn just about anything! While in the basic manners class, focus on teaching your dog sit, down, stay and a nice loose leash walk. These will translate well into any of the therapy dog classes or programs you will encounter. Most therapy programs have an educational component. In additon to making sure your hound is well suited for therapy work, there are also a lot of things you learn as well. You need to be an advocate for your hound. In some cases, you need to watch where wheelchairs roll (over toes!), rough handling from over enthusiastic toddlers and when your dog is tired, you need to learn to recognize that. Most of the classes should go over some basic handling situations that will help you succeed.
There are plenty of therapy dog programs out there to choose from. It is wise to do your homework before aligning yourself with an organization as the majority won’t let you belong to more than one. All have different requirements. You should look for an organization that provides assistance with placement, ongoing support from teams of experienced volunteers, and make sure you adhere to the basic beliefs of the organization. You should also make sure the therapy program has an umbrella insurance policy that not only insures the facility but your dog and you. Some organizations require a shadowing component where you share a few visits with an experienced volunteer and/or you and your dog are evaluated out in ‘real life’ volunteer situations. These are a great way to see first-hand some of the positive impacts that is made in a facility and what challenges you might face. Most of all, make sure you like the therapy dog organization and the people who volunteer.
Working with your Greyhound, spreading care and compassion, is very rewarding and fulfilling. Greyhounds are naturally inclined to make wonderful animal assisted therapy companions. It takes little investment compared to what is reaped.
Therapy Dog Links