Therapy Dogs: Does Personality Matter?

My Great Pyrenees dog, Jack earned his certification as a therapy dog (TDI) in the fall and we have been working for the last four months with a team of therapy dogs visiting a personal care facility for seniors. Jack is a real trouper and a well loved by the clients we visit, but he seems stressed by the outings. At first  I thought it was inexperience but now I am wondering if the work simply does not fit his personality.

Jack 1The Great Pyrenees is a guard dog and also very oriented to his/her own family and familiar relationships. When they become familiar with a person, they are very interested and loving and never forget a friend. On the other hand, they never meet a stranger they do not feel the need to checkout very carefully.  Sometimes Jack seems confused and even overwhelmed on therapy visits. He is willing to try but faced with a room full of people, he is not thrilled. He approaches each individual, sniffing carefully and clearly needs time to adjust.

Jack is a striking guy and he draws attention when we are out in public. Recently he worked as an ambassador for TDI at the local home and garden show and after an hour of hoopla and being mobbed, he retreated under a bench in the back of the booth and said “Enough!” That was when I knew I needed to reassess the situation from his perspective.

Jack & stuffed dogLuckily there are many options for TDI Dogs. We have recently attended several Reading Festivals. For those who are not familiar with this activity, the therapy dogs take turns having young readers read aloud to them. Jack may be cut out to be a reading coach! He loves to lie down on the floor next to me and he definitely gives the little readers his full attention.

Would love to hear if others have had these issues and adjustments with Pyrs or any other working and guard dogs in a therapeutic role.


About Pathfinder Pursuits

Camille is a licensed clinical social worker and writer. She is the author of the Quincy the Horse children's books.
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