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Early Socialization for Future Therapy Dog?

510 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  gingerkid
I have a 9 week old Maltese poodle mix that I'd like to be a therapy dog. I doubt I'd be able to socialize her in actual hospitals, schools, etc due to regulations, but I'd like to socialize her as well as possible so that she can be a good candidate for therapy dog work. Besides the basics like introducing her to children, men, other dogs, different environments and objects, etc, what other things should I consider exposing her to for therapy dog work?
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When she is up to date on shots, expose her to lots of friendly, large dogs. Take her into hardware stores and pet stores, as well as different Vet offices. Sit with her outside of stores and let people pet her, and give her kibble treats. Set her up with at least one weekly play date with many different individual dogs, as well as a controlled environment with a few dogs. Expose her to dog-friendly cats, and other pets if possible. Farm animals, too. As she gets older, You will be able to walk her on the sidewalk in increasing people traffic and commotion, at that stage allowing people to interact gently. After 6 months or so, when she is reliably potty trained, you may be able to take her into independent living, retirement homes. Some libraries and toy stores may allow you some time with kids. Find some good puppy training classes, helping with socialization, and plan to do lots of training for the Canine Good Citizen certification.

Take her on lots of drives and trips on errands. If she likes, you can let people gently pick her up, but after she is up to date, try Not to carry her, but walk her on leash.
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Low-level exposure to lots of different things and building a relationship between you and her will make her a lot more confident when she encounters weird things in hospitals and schools.

The idea behind socialization is not necessarily about introducing them to everything that they will ever experience in their lifetime, but rather, IMO it's about teaching them that new things are not scary. But, some things that you could probably easily expose her to now are people on crutches or in a wheel chair, wearing surgical masks, lab coats, scrubs, the smell of hand sanitizer and/or other disinfectants, etc.

And make sure when you're introducing her to those kinds of people/things that you're not coercing her into interacting with them, such as having them lure her over with a cookie.
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