Online training for therapy dogs and their humans

Wendy Peace's Great Dane, Zucca, has been learning therapy skills and tricks on Zoom classes. 

"This was my first online class and I thought this isn't going to work so well," she said.

But to her surprise, it worked like magic. She said the most important tool is bribery.

"Well, lots of treats," Peace said.

The Good Dog Foundation, based in New York, trains and certifies dog owners and their dogs to become therapy teams visiting people in need in places like hospitals, nursing homes, and disaster sites. But during the pandemic, their training and visits have become virtual on Zoom.

"Just even being able to see a dog on a screen cheers people up," director of training Renee Payne said. 

Pet therapy dog owner Joanne Teoh has been taking the one-hour training sessions on Zoom with her 6-month-old mini Bernedoodle named Baci. 

So, how do you train a dog on Zoom when most people are having problems learning?

"The dog doesn't know they're on screen and dog training, in general, is training the humans," Payne said. "I use my dog as the demo dog and show them how to do it."

Teoh said Baci "can bring a lot of joy not only to our family but to children in children's hospitals or in the nursing homes for the elderly."

"To help be a support team for people going through things, it really means a lot to me," Peace said.

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