Seven year old golden retriever; Lily Rose stole our hearts at our first meeting. She’s a therapy dog that helps school- aged/ emergent readers with | ARF! Reading Program ARF! Reading Program (Animals + Reading = Fun).
The dog calms the reader and is non judgemental, helping build confidence in becoming a lifelong readers. Studies have shown that when reading aloud in a safe/supportive environment- one becomes more confident and fluent in their reading skills.
Lily Rose and her mom Kim inspired us, and got us wondering what does it take to become a therapy dog? We decided to sit down with Kim, to walk us through the process. In Lily Rose’s case, Kim had a background in education and a passion for language development and reading which led them specifically to ARF. In the past she saw what a difference a dog makes in the classroom, and after Kim retired, she was called to volunteer.
Lily Rose came to Kim at 6 months old
and was partially trained. She had a
calm, sweet temperament which was the perfect indication to Kim that she would make a great therapy dog.
However, becoming a therapy dog doesn't happen overnight. After basic obedience training, comes therapy dog training.(Kim and Lily Rose worked with All For Animals... ) Therapy training lasts 5 to 6 weeks and consists of learning skills in class and practice practice practice at home!
The main skills Lily Rose learned through this program were:
● Loose leash walking
● Stay down for an amount of time then come when called
- Greet/meet another dog on a leash in a friendly way
- Do not react to distractions
- Turn on a leash
- Hold/squeeze and touch “tail” and “paws”
When practicing new skills at home, it is important to have the whole family stay consistent with your technique. Sometimes this is easier said than done as often times mom does things different than Dad.
After completing the course, Kim and Lily Rose spent a few weeks reinforcing and refining the new skills before Lily Rose tested out.
Next came the Love on a Leash (LOAL) test. After Lily Rose tested out, she began her 10 hour internship at a skilled Nursing Facility in town. It was in this setting that Kim was able to see the calming effect Lily Rose’s peaceful demeanor had on hospitalized seniors.
With Kim’s previous classroom experience, and knowing her pup, she felt Lily Rose would be a great fit for young readers. To test out her theory, Kim decided to read to Lily Rose and see how she responded. Lily Rose seemed to be engaged while being read to, proving Kim’s instincts to be right.
As an official therapy dog, Lily Rose becomes very excited and eager to hear what the day's work will entail. “Go see the kids” and “read books with the kids” are definitely in her receptive vocabulary! She positions herself on the blanket and allows children to touch her and show affection however they are comfortable. Big hugs, kisses, cuddles as well as exploring her paws, tail, belly and mouth are all okay with Lily Rose. She focuses on her readers, looking at attentively at pictures in their books as they read aloud. After their reading session, if time allows, students are rewarded with a repertoire of tricks that Lily Rose loves to perform.
We are so grateful to all therapy dogs and their mom’s and dad’s who are dedicated to making the world a better place through the unmistakable connection of love these dogs bring back to humans.