Working Dogs

Manderston Canine Academy is privileged to be the home of Life New Kensington Clinic's Therapy Dogs. Academy founder Charlene is one of only 23 Animal-Assisted Activity Practitioners in South Africa who registered with the South African Board of Companion Animal Professionals.

Manderston's Therapy Dog Programme seeks to develop competent handler-dog teams whom can move on to provide this speciality service. Since the training is very practical in nature and requires hands-on experience for both handler and dog, it involves visits to institutions such as old age homes and rehabilitation centres. In this fashion Manderston also provides a community service.

As an owner of a Therapy Dog, you will be embarking on a road of community service. This activity which you share with your dog can he highly rewarding.

  • What is a Therapy Dog?
  • Training
Unlike service dogs that perform specific highly specialised tasks such as guiding the blind, finding things like drugs or explosives, or tracking someone or something, Therapy Dogs perform a therapeutic task. This means that they assist in the process of helping an individual recover from injury or illness. They may also help in maintaining an individual's mental and physical health.

pixlr therapy1Therapy Dogs have some very special qualities: They are patient, friendly but not overbearing, gentle and careful. They are not frightened by strange medical equipment that sticks out at odd angles, makes noises or moves on its own accord. People that are unresponsive, are missing limbs, or move or speak strangely do not unsettle them. They are not put off by the smells and buzz of a working medical environment. Above all, they don't respond aggressively to being poked and prodded and they unwaveringly obedient. This may sound relatively simple, but in reality it is quite challenging for the dog. We are sure you know a person how is put off by at least one of the things we expect of our Therapy Dogs to accept unconditionally!

The dogs perform a simple function. They care and do so unconditionally. They don't ask questions and don't make demands. While humans make patients think of the past, the future, or their problems, the dogs are simply there.

Typically, Therapy Dogs would be taken to visit hospital wards where they would be taken to interact with individual patients. They are also a favourite at old age homes where they can form part of group activities or perform individual visits. Another important function is an educational one: Due to their high tolerance for unusual environments, most Therapy Dogs are well suited to visit schools. In certain circumstances a Therapy Dog may be placed with an individual or family to assist with a person's ongoing recovery or maintenance of health.
Not every dog can become a Therapy Dog and even dogs with potential may prove not be entirely cut out for the job. If you are interested, discuss your interest with Charlene. Admission to the programme is subject to an assessment to determine whether the dog has the potential and basic temperament requirements expected of a therapy dog.

Training a Therapy Dog is quite intensive and comprises four main aspects:
  • Advanced Obedience Training. This is essential as the dog is expected to unconditionally and without delay, especially in strange and challenging environments. Dogs don't have to be at this level right away - in fact it is a good idea to get a young dog involved when he shows his potential at basic obedience.
  • Desensitisation and techniques. Dog and handler are exposed to simulated situations involving medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, hospital beds, etc. Various techniques in interacting with patients are demonstrated and practised.
  • Theoretical discussions of various situations, expectations, handling techniques, processes, and related aspects.
  • Supervised practical visits to approved institutions and patients.
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