Therapy Dogs International Testing

One of the many classes I teach is a TDI prep class for handlers & dogs that want to go on to do therapy work. If you aren’t familiar with the testing you can see all fifteen of the exercises by checking out TDI’s website: http://www.tdi-dog.org/images/TestingBrochure.pdf

I will start a series of posts on how to train each of the exercises. Remember you want your dog to be successful, so don’t cut corners or jump ahead too quickly with your training.

TEST 1: ACCEPTING A FRIENDLY STRANGER

This sounds easy enough, a stranger walks up to you & your dog to shake your hand and say hello. During the test your dog is to sit quietly while you shake hands, no jumping, no excitement and no trying to get away.

I’ve found that by explaining the exercise to the handler as “it is nothing other than a sit stay with a MAJOR distraction” the handlers find the exercise to be less daunting.

So, first you work on your sit stay. Remembering that there are 3 parts to a stay:
Duration – how long
Distance – how far
Distraction –  how much other stuff is going on around you

The first part you should work on is duration. You add duration by asking your dog to sit beside you and gradually delay the use of your marker “Yes” (followed by a treat). You might start with 5 seconds and work up to 30 seconds. Once you have a solid 30 second sit stay with the handler right next to the dog you can start to add distance, but when you do this you’ll reduce the duration of the sit, to something like 10 seconds. As your dog gets more proficient at holding the sit you can juggle the 3 variables back & forth until you have a solid sit stay for 30+ seconds with the dog sitting within a foot or two of the handler amidst other distractions.

Now you’re ready to try a casual meet & greet. The greeter should approach the handler & dog in a relaxed way, not having any direct eye contact with the dog. If the dog makes any motion to get up the greeter immediately backs away and the handler re-cues the dog to sit. It may take a few tries but you should be on the right track for a successful greeting. Once you’ve got it, keep practicing. Remember jumping up to greet is a natural reaction for most dogs!

Hope this was helpful 🙂

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