This is one of the most frequently asked questions. Just the other night, while attending a gallery opening, the conversation with a group of folks turned to my work with therapy dogs – once again the breed question came up. If one were to take a census of our Bright Spot therapy dogs, one would come up with more – you guessed it – Golden Retrievers, followed by Poodles (all sizes), then Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. However, from my 13 year experience evaluating dogs for this work, I’ve had 2 out of every 3 Golden Retrievers not pass. Either they simply weren’t ready for therapy work (meaning they showed promise, but needed lots more training) or they weren’t cut out for the work. Again, in my experience, all the poodles I’ve seen have been great, but 1 out of every 2 Cavaliers were timid and would withdraw from touch.
Today, I evaluated my first Newfoundland. Boy, did he win everyone over! What a show stopper! He had staff coming out of their offices and residents coming out of their rooms in their wheelchairs and walkers. The perfect therapy dog moment occured – lots of conversation was generated and a great deal of movement. Everyone wanted to pet this friendly fellow!
Really, I’ve seen many breeds, including mixed breeds. Just like people, some are suited for this work, others are not. I need to see a dog that is happy and wants to be there.