Ask The Hairy Dogfathers: Help – My Dog Has Cabin Fever!
Dear Hairy Dogfathers,
Mind taking the time to answer a couple of questions for me?
My Miniature Schnauzer, Pep, and I have to find something to do together in the winter! In the warmer months we both enjoy hiking. But in the winter, it gets way too cold, well below freezing, to go hiking in North Dakota. He’s driving me crazy – Pep is pacing around the house, and really wants to go hiking. I don’t want to go crazy this winter, so what should we do to keep active?
As well, I am interested in therapy dogs – how do you get started? I think that Pep would make a great therapy dog. I know a dog has to be out going and friendly, which is no problem for Pep.
Signed “Not Going Nuts”
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While it may be cold outside, the winter is no excuse to go out and have some fun with your dog. There are a variety of indoor and outdoor activities you and Pep could enjoy. You could also consider indoor dog-friendly sports like agility or rally. But don’t let the cold keep you indoors. If you own a good winter jacket, Pep should too! Get him a winter coat that fits him properly, as well as a set of booties, and you two can still enjoy hikes all winter long. If you find there is lots of snow in your region, consider snowshoeing!
If you are really interested in doing therapy work, contact your local humane society, as the certification and other requirements differ based on where you live. Taking basic and advanced obedience type classes is a great way to getting started toward your goal.
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I love that you are looking for new adventures to share with Pep!
Being part of a therapy dog team can be a powerful experience, for both of you. Before you sign up to volunteer, take a really sober look at Pep and yourself. Therapy work is rigorous and demanding. Other dogs, unaccustomed noises, new smells and lots of strangers, coupled with clients who may be seemingly unresponsive, exhibit erratic behaviours or not be in full control of their bodies, means that many dogs are stressed by therapy work.
For the dogs and handlers who are up for the challenge, I suggest brushing up on your advanced obedience skills. Take some obedience or rally classes. The more you and your dog are communicating, the more confident you will be in new situations.
Once you narrow down the search for an institution that you want to do therapy work with, I suggest volunteering there on your own first. Get to know the staff and other volunteers, and how the place runs. Once you know the ins and outs, you will be more successful in stepping in with Pep.
I recommend reading this great book by Jon Katz: “Izzy & Lenore: Two Dogs, an Unexpected Journey, and Me.”
Have fun out there together!
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