hi! it’s really exciting that you’re pursuing therapy dog work with bodie!
so far, so good with riley. generally, she sees everyone as a potential friend + is thrilled to get any sort of attention, so our current visiting environment [they announce to the ronald mcdonald house residents that she is here, and anyone who wants to visit with her comes to the community room to spend as much time with her as they’d like] is working really well.
our next endeavor will be a little different — it will be a mix of casual visiting as described above, and also seeing patients in their hospital rooms, being integrated into their current therapy regimens, etc. she had a test run last week and did great, so i think/hope she will enjoy the more structured work as well.
two of the biggest things they focus on in therapy dog prep are loose leash walking and being able to focus amidst distractions/not react to stimuli [people, noises, food, smells, other dogs, wheelchairs, you name it]. our cue word for focusing is “leave it” — it might be good to go ahead and choose a cue word, create situations with some of the distractions listed above, and start practicing [treats/praise whenever they ignore things/focus on you instead. just ignore unwanted behavior and try to re-direct them to you…no need for negative words]. this is really tough, but one of the most important skills for therapy dog work, so any extra practice you can give him would be so helpful!
also, try to start learning his stress signs. dogs can become stressed by all sorts of environments or situations — every dog has different triggers and different ways of showing it. some common signs are lip licking, excessive shaking [like “shaking it off” when they’re wet], and panting. it’s important to be able to read and advocate for your dog — i.e. avoiding certain environments you know are stressful, recognizing when he needs a break or is uncomfortable, etc.
hope this helps + good luck!