Providing Therapy and/or Support for people in need is no small job and it takes a very special puppy to have the ability to do this work. At Deer Creek, we have recognized three very distinct and important steps to recognizing the perfect candidates for our therapy program. We follow the process of what we call BFF. There is not one part of these steps any more crucial than another, and all must be achieved in order to be a Best Friend Forever.
The first phase of this process is also the earliest to be determined based on testing methods derived from an adaptation of the Volhard Temperament Test in conjunction with temperament testing for service dogs. This can be determined around 6 to 7 weeks of age at the earliest. The puppies will continue to be challenged with the testing material throughout their journey with us. In general, our trainers will look for that gentle 'eye' and desire to be near and to trust people.
The second phase is then determined their week of Foundation Training. Our trainers will pay close attention to the puppy's drive to work and to please. Will the puppy be able to keep their attention on the trainer and look up to their eyes for direction? All of our doodles complete their foundation tasks within their week, but some puppies will be exceptional and learn new commands within one or two sessions. It is critical that a therapy or support puppy is a hard worker and fast learner. It shows they enjoy the training sessions and pleasing their people.
The last phase of choosing a therapy/ support puppy is their adaptability to the outside world. Friendliness is the most involved step as it requires the puppy to go out into the world and meet lots of new people, sounds, environments and objects. It is important to have a well balanced puppy that can easily bounce back from unfamiliar things and have a social butterfly attitude when it comes to all of the new people that come along.
It takes all three of these traits in unison to have the perfect therapy/ support dog and BFF. We have come across many of our puppies that have these qualities and are so very proud of our doodles who have gone on to change peoples' lives with other families as well as our own personal dogs we see do the same everyday.