By Emily Freeman // October 2018
Pets as Therapy is a program where volunteers and their pets give up their time to visit schools, care homes and hospices in order to bring joy, comfort and companionship to many individuals who appreciate being able to touch and stroke a friendly animal. The stress-reducing effect of stroking a pet can help those who just need a boost to get through the day or those who are no longer able to have a dog of their own.
The premise is simple, but not all dogs are suitable. They have to be well trained and go through a rigorous assessment before they can be signed off as a PAT dog. They need to be friendly but calm, confident but not too over the top - and they must love to be petted and cuddled!
Ruby always came to classes dressed to impress!
Ruby embarked on her Pets as Therapy journey as a young pup when she enrolled in our Bridgend puppy classes. Jo, her owner, had already done a great job of ensuring she had consistent rules at home and had started her socialisation. We worked in class to turn this beautiful bundle of bouncy fluff into a well-mannered, mature adult.
Ruby progressed well, proving to be smart and sassy, with just the right level of character! She quickly mastered her recall and once she had got the hang of being calm in class, Jo took her to cafes, schools and even her evening course to get Ruby used to settling in new places.
It is vital that a dog working with the public, especially children, doesn’t get nervous or flustered, so we spent plenty of time ensuring that Ruby met people calmly without jumping up and that she was happy with unusual things happening. By providing different surfaces and games for our puppies to play on and with, we build their confidence in class to allow them to face the big, bad world with a spring in their step!
Graduation day with Ruby and her proud paw-rent
Unfortunately, Ruby wasn’t about to let it all be plain sailing. She developed a skin condition called cellulitis and her training had to be paused while she recovered from this. Then, a few days after passing her final PAT assessment, she had an infection of her uterus called pyometra and had to go for emergency surgery – not a lucky pup! However, her extensive training on coping with new environments and being handled by different people meant she enjoyed her regular vet trips!
At nine months old, Ruby is now a fully fledged PAT dog and will soon be out and about helping the community. It’s been a long journey and she’s had a few set backs, but we could not be prouder of our ex-puppy class pooch and her dedicated owner! We are sure that Ruby will continue to be an excellent Dog School ambassador!
Ruby looking very smart in her new uniform!
Do you have a puppy, adult or golden oldie that needs a little bit of help learning to be polite and mind their manners? Or maybe you and your dog have a few other skills you could brush up on while discovering fun new ways to bond with your furry friend? Either way, get in touch! We run classes for all ages, sizes and types of dogs, and would love to help you help your dog.