Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Service Dog Blog Hop - Therapy Dog FAQs

Today is the first ever Sunday Service Dog Blog Hop.  The Sunday Service Dog Blog Hop was created by Oz the TerrierCarma Poodale, and me, with the help of our assistants, to help educate people about service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals, and the very important and very different roles they play.  

Infographic by Sugar's mom

I am a therapy dog, so Mom and I get a lot of questions about therapy dogs.  Here are some of the questions we have received:

What's the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog? 

At BarkWorld I met Mr. Bean,
a service dog in training

A service dog is a dog specifically trained to do work or perform specific tasks for a person who is disabled.  (Service dogs are also called assistance dogs, and they include guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs, mobility dogs, medical alert dogs, medical assistance dogs, and psychiatric service dogs.)  You should not pet a service dog.

A therapy dog is a dog who visits hospitals, nursing homes, schools, libraries, etc. to spend time with people and make them feel better.  Therapy dogs must be trained and well-mannered, and in some places are required to pass the Canine Good Citizen test and be certified by an organization such as Therapy Dogs Incorporated.  People are encouraged to pet therapy dogs -- that's their job!

For a more detailed explanation, see my mom's post Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, & Emotional Support Animals - Important Differences.

Sleeping on the job
(Being a therapy dog is hard work)

Can you take him (meaning me, Garth) on an airplane? 

No.  Therapy dogs do not have the same access privileges as service dogs, so they are not allowed to accompany their owners on planes, into restaurants, or into other places where dogs are not allowed but where service dogs are allowed by law.

Do you ever want to use the therapy dog vest to get your dog into places where dogs aren't allowed? 

NO.  NO.  NO.  Not only is this a violation of the Therapy Dogs Incorporated ethics and against the law in some places, it's just WRONG to misrepresent a pet as a service dog.  Therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs and don't have the same access rights.  

What's the harm in pretending a pet is a service dog?  

When people misrepresent pets as service dogs, it makes life more difficult for the people who have a legitimate need for service dogs.  Restaurant, hotel, and store owners don't take service dogs seriously when pet dogs are routinely misrepresented as service dogs and behave badly.  Unfortunately this is happening more and more frequently because it's easy to obtain fake service dog credentials over the internet.  People with disabilities who have a legitimate need for service dogs are facing increased discrimination and denied access because of fake service dogs.  We think this is appalling.  If you're considering misrepresenting your dog as a service dog, first consider this: do you really want to make life more difficult for those who need service dogs?

What type of therapy do you do?

For some reason mom always thinks this question is funny.  She wants to answer something like "aromatherapy" or "massage therapy" or "Jungian psychotherapy", but I have to remind her that most people don't really understand what therapy dogs do.  When she explains that we primarily just visit with people and let them pet us, many people give her a blank look.  But just a dog's presence has a very calming influence for many humans, and petting a dog lowers a human's blood pressure.  One woman told us that our visit with her father at a rehab center was the best thing that had happened in months.  He had been in and out of hospitals and rehab centers, and she said just the act of petting a dog gave him a sense of normalcy that felt REALLY good.

Sleep therapy

Where do you do your therapy work?

Mom and I have visited hospitals, assisted living facilities, long term care facilities, rehab centers, and libraries -- we even visit a local law school during exams to help the students with their stress.  We also attend events such as the Special Olympics.  Some of our therapy dog friends go to schools and let children read to them.

How often do you do your therapy dog work?

Because mom works full-time and has a part-time job as a hike leader and another part-time job as my blogging assistant, our schedule is pretty limited.  We try to do a therapy visit at least once a month.  We're required to do one visit a quarter to remain certified and nine visits a year to retain our Caring Canines membership.

Do you work with other doggies or alone?

There are usually a bunch of therapy dog teams at each visit.  At some facilities we split up and go room to room visiting with patients, but at other places we all visit with everyone in a common area.  Some of our friends do visits where they are the only dog.  It depends upon the facility and the needs of the patients.

Do you work with little humans or regular-sized humans?

Both  - it depends upon the visit.  We went to the Children's Hospital for our last visit, and we visited with little humans, but most of our visits have been with regular-sized humans.

How much training is required to be a therapy dog?

That depends on a huge number of factors -- whether your dog already knows basic manners, their maturity level, how much time you can spend with them, and whether they have issues they need to overcome.  To become a therapy dog, a dog must learn basic manners and be able to remain calm in a variety of different situations.  

Therapy dogs must remain calm in a variety of different situations (such as when sitting next to a giant misshapen Holstein
wearing a night shirt)

Where can I buy a therapy dog?

You don't buy a therapy dog.  If someone tries to sell you one, be suspicious.  If you have a dog with the right temperament, you can train him or her and then take the Canine Good Citizen and therapy dog certification tests to become a therapy dog team.  Many of my therapy dog friends were adopted from shelters and rescues and trained to be therapy dogs.

You don't have to be a yellow lab to be a therapy dog

How do you become a therapy dog?

See my page How to Become a Therapy Dog.  

Why did you become a therapy dog?

Mom says I'm a very special dog, and I'm very good at making people smile, so she wanted to share me with others who could perhaps use a smile.

Sharing my smile at the 2013 RSPCA Dog Jog

What's the best thing about being a therapy dog?

I love people and I love attention.  I love petting and bellyrubbing, and I love meeting new people who can pet me and give me bellyrubs.  

The work of a therapy dog never ends

Have a fabulous Service Dog Sunday!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Be a SCOOPER HERO! Garth's TOP TEN Reasons to #ScoopThatPoop

What's a Scooper Hero? A dog parent who scoops up and properly disposes of their dog's poop.

Garth's Top Ten Reasons to Scoop That Poop

1. Nobody likes to step in poo (ick)

2. Nobody wants their dog eating poo (double ick per momma)

3. Keep it Clean - Picking up after your dog keeps our trails, sidewalks, streets, and neighborhoods clean for other users to enjoy

4. Keep it Dog-Friendly - More places would be dog friendly if more people picked up after their dogs (a lot of beaches, parks, & other places are closed to dogs for this reason)

5. We all need clean water for drinking & swimming - Dog poop affects our drinking water & the water quality of our streams, rivers, oceans, lakes, bays, canals, etc. (see my mom's post Dog Poop and Drinking Water for more information)

6. Poo smells bad and attracts flies (ick)

7. Disease - Dog poop contains parasites and LOTS of bacteria (way more than other types of poop), and can spread diseases to people and other dogs

8. Be Green - Picking up poop is good for the environment; dog poop is NOT natural and doesn't degrade quickly

9. Dog poop is NOT fertilizer; composting doesn't get poop hot enough to kill the bacteria

10. Picking up after your dog is part of being a good neighbor and a responsible pet parent

It's easy to be a Scooper Hero . . . 

When your dog does this:

You do this:

. . . and then dispose of it in a trash can.  
(Don't forget this very important part.)

Today is our second Scoop That Poop day, hosted by Sugar the Golden Retriever/Golden WoofsOz the TerrierGizmo's Terrier TorrentMy GBGV LifeBoingy Dog, and me.  Scoop That Poop was created by our friends at Golden Woofs to raise awareness of the importance of
ALWAYS picking up after your dog.

*SUPER SCOOPER Exciting News*

Dogster has joined our Scoop That Poop campaign.  They created this cool infographic, which is an excellent summary of the most important reasons to scoop that poop (great minds think alike, right?):

We encourage everyone to copy the infographic and share it on Twitter, FB, G+, Pinterest, etc.
(To copy the infographic, click on 
the image and save on your desktop.)
When sharing, use the hashtag #ScoopThatPoop.

Be sure to check out Golden Woofs and Dogster on a Mission to Scoop That Poop and the Scoop That Poop campaign website, and follow Scoop That Poop on Twitter at @Scoop_That_Poop.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Announcing the Sunday Service Dog Blog Hop - to be held on Sunday, September 29

Next Sunday, September 29, my pals Oz the Terrier and Carma Poodale and I will host the Sunday Service Dog Blog Hop.  

The purpose of this blog hop is to educate people about service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals, and the very important and very different roles they play.  It can be confusing, so my mom wrote a post to try to help people understand the differences -- Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, & Emotional Support Animals - Important Differences.     

Please join us for the blog hop, by posting, linking your post, and/or visiting and sharing the posts.  You don't have to be a service dog, therapy dog, or emotional support animal to participate -- everyone is welcome to join us in sharing information.

Because I'm a therapy dog, I will be posting primarily about therapy dogs.  I plan to post responses to Frequently Asked Questions about therapy dogs.  

What questions do you have about therapy dogs?  Please share your questions in the comments below then check back during the blog hop for my responses.

I hope you have a fabulous Sunday!!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

FitDog Friday - Garth's TOP TEN Reasons to Exercise with Your Dog

1. It will make your dog happy

2. It will make you happy

3. It helps with stress for both doggies & humans 

Stress?  What stress?

4. It makes you and your dog look and feel better 

5. It's a great way to make new friends

Me and Trevor, Cooper, and Austin
on one of the first Human Adventure hikes mom & I led

Walking with Rocco of To Dog With Love
on the greenway at BlogPaws

6. It's FUN

7. When you & your dog are physically fit, you can do even more fun things

Photo by Brian Padow, Canine Adventure
I'm six years old.  I couldn't leap like this if I didn't walk every day, play fetch most days, and go for 2+ hour river romps two or more times a week.  

8. It tires your dog out so he/she is better behaved (it can even help with behavior problems)

Too tired to eat the carpet

Demonstrating my good behavior

9. $$$$$ - Dogs who exercise and maintain proper weight have lower vet bills and need fewer medications

10. Dogs who exercise and maintain proper weight live LONGER, healthier lives

Don't know where to start? See How to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Fit, Part I and Part II for some tips.

***BIG NEWS***

Our pals at SlimDoggy have a very exciting announcement today that will help you and your doggie stay motivated to exercise every day. also has all kinds of info on doggie nutrition, weight control, and exercise.  Check it out -- it's a fantastic resource.

It's FitDog Friday!  

FitDog Friday is a blog hop hosted by my friends SlimDoggy

Peggy's Pet Place, and To Dog With Love. Check out our hosts and the other bloggers in the hop (see below) for ideas, tips and inspiration for getting and keeping your pups fit and healthy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Portrait of a Happy Lab - Garth's Mom Visits Spirited Art

By Guest Blogger Rebecca (AKA Garth's Mom)

On Friday night, a friend and I went to Spirited Art for their Pet Portrait Class.  At Spirited Art, you don't need any knowledge of technique or talent at painting.  For $50 and a few hours of your time, you can have a couple glasses of wine (the wine is optional), spend a few hours painting, and walk out of the studio with a painting of your pet.  I think that's a pretty good deal.

Although I call myself an "artist" in my guest blogger bios, I'm using that term pretty loosely.  I love to work with things like polymer clay, beads, wire, resin and chain maille, and I have a knack for kirigami, but I've always had difficulty drawing and painting anything to look realistic.  Luckily I (and everyone else in my class) had help from the folks at Spirited Art.

For the Pet Portrait Class, we each sent them a photo a week before class.  I sent one of my favorite photos of Garth -- one you will likely recognize:

Before the class started, the instructors sketched our photos onto a canvas.  

This is how the painting starts -- your photo sketched on a canvas.

They set us up with paints and an easel, and a waitress from The Wine Loft next door took our wine order. 

Yep, definitely gonna' need that glass of wine.

The instructor guided us through the process of mixing colors, painting the background, then painting our pets' features.  I expected it to be like the "Paint By Number" kits we had as kids, but it was much more difficult.  We had to mix our paints to get the right color, and I found that part to be the most difficult and frustrating.  With the variation in color in Garth's fur and the shadows in the creases on his face, it nearly drove me batty trying to figure out how to match the colors.  But the instructors were available for questions and they gave me advice on colors to use and how to mix them.

At this point in the evening, I was seriously
questioning the instructor's advice about using grey.

Needing a break from mixing colors,
I decided to paint the black areas.

The instructor gave us some pointers on painting eyes, and somehow the eyes ended up looking like Garth's eyes.

I know at this point you're wondering if I'd had too much wine.

I don't know if it's because it was Friday evening after a stressful, frustrating week, and I was tired and grumpy anyway, or if it's because I expected the class to be dummy proof, with the correct colors of paint already mixed and ready, along with clear instruction on where to paint which color, but I found the class to be enormously frustrating -- despite a couple glasses of wine.  (For this class, I needed tequila.)  My friend who had taken the class before said it was really stressful when she took the class and painted her dog, so she decided to paint a whimsical pelican instead this time, and she said she enjoyed the class much more.

At the point in class when I was seriously thinking that I'd toss the painting in the trash as soon as I got home, the instructor came and helped me out.  She fixed a couple things and suggested ways I could fix others, and miraculously the painting began to actually look like Garth -- and not a Garth who had been rolling his face in grey and black paint.

After some help and advice from the teacher,
it actually looked good!

I was pleased with the finished product.  I sent a photo to Garth's dad and he texted back "I LOVE it".

A side-by-side comparison of the painting and photo

A side-by-side comparison of the painting and Garth
(his ball looks awfully clean in the painting)

Garth no longer interested in the painting

Hanging on a wall in our living room

My recommendation:  I like Spirited Art.  Most of us don't have many outlets for our creativity in our everyday lives, so I love that they're providing such an outlet in a very non-intimidating environment - and with wine available.  But I would recommend starting out taking an easier class before trying the Pet Portrait Class.  In many of their classes, everyone paints the same thing, and it's often a colorful stylized version of whatever they're painting.  I think that would be much more fun and less stressful than trying to paint your pet from a photo image.  

When you're painting your pet, you're trying hard to make it actually look like your pet, so it's frustrating when it doesn't.  And for the first 90% of the class, it may not look much like your pet.  So if you do the Pet Portrait Class, be prepared for some initial frustration.  But the instructors are very good at fixing things and helping you make your painting the way you want it.  They had a couple blow-dryers in the back of the class, so we could dry the paint and paint over mistakes -- and the blow-dryers got a lot of use.  Halfway through the class, some of the dogs appeared to have toupees while one looked like a lemur, but we were all amazed and pleased with the final results.  I was ready to tear my hair out in the middle of the class, but now I look at the painting hanging in our living room, and I'm ready to take the class again.  After all, now I need a painting of Jake.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cool New Products/Services I Learned About at BarkWorld!

Still recovering from having too much fun at BarkWorld

Events such as BarkWorld need sponsors, and they had some awesome ones.  Petco was the biggest sponsor (Thank you Petco).  Other sponsors included Pruven by 3M, which hosted the contest I won to go to BarkWorld (THANK YOU PRUVEN), the wonderful Westin Buckhead (where the event was held), DogsterCatsterThe Honest Kitchen, Nourish dog shampoo, Unleashed by PetcoVectra Protect the Love, Be PawsitiveZuke's, Pet Care Rx, K9 Carry AllNylabone, and a bunch of others.  (See 2013 Sponsors for a full list.) 

Thank you so much to all of the sponsors for sponsoring the event and for providing such awesome swag!

We learned about a lot of new products and services at BarkWorld.  Some of them are designed to make pet parents' lives easier, and others are designed to make pets' lives more fun.  At the top of the fun category is the new line of products at Petco called the Star Wars Pet Fans Collection.  

They have Star Wars toys for both dogs AND cats,

Star Wars costumes,

A long time ago, in a city far far away,
I was enticed into posing wearing Yoda ears
by the promise of some Zuke's treats

and we even got a Star Wars survival kit as part of our swag.  Star Wars Pet Fans Collection products are supposed to go on sale today, September 1, but we saw some at Petco yesterday -- so they're probably available at your local Petco now!

This is my Star Wars Survival Kit

. . . but will I survive the embarrassment?

Another GREAT new product we learned about is Pruven Scratch Protection Film.  Although we don't need it because I'm not a scratcher, mom says they certainly could have used it with my black lab brother Jake.  You stick the clear film on surfaces you want to protect, such as doors, windows, window sills, etc. and it protects the surfaces from dog or cat scratches, then you won't have to repaint them!  Mom thinks it's a brilliant idea.  Pruven also has lots of other great products to make the lives of pet parents easier.  Mom always keeps a Pruven lint roller in her car, her office, and various places around the house -- something to do with not wanting yellow lab hair on her dark business suits.

Just not that excited about nonedible swag
(although my mom was)

We also learned about Nourish dog shampoo and we got a couple bottles to try.  We haven't tried it yet because I haven't needed a bath, but we will report back to you when we do.  One of the great things about Nourish is that for every ounce of shampoo they sell, they give an ounce of shampoo to an animal shelter, because clean dogs are more easily adoptable.  We think this is a great idea -- we LOVE companies that give back to the community and help puppies (and kitties and other creatures) in need. 

Speaking of helping puppies in need, for every treat box purchased from Be Pawsitive, a box of treats is sent to an animal shelter or rescue organization.  I tried a Be Pawsitive treat box back in June, and I LOVED the all natural, USDA-certified organic treats.  (See my Be Pawsitive Treat Box Review.)  I kept stopping by their booth at BarkWorld because they have such awesome treats, and all I had to do was look cute and pose for photos.

Just hanging out with a Be Pawsitive treat on my paw

Although not a new product, I wanted to mention Vectra because it's a great product.  I've been using Vectra 3D for a couple years now and I've found it to be very effective against ticks, which is extremely important with all the time I spend out in the woods.  Did you know that Vectra 3D also repels and kills fleas, mosquitoes, biting and sand flies, lice and mites?  Mom says we live in the mosquito capital of the world.  She wishes they made Vectra for humans.  Vectra also has a new facebook page called Protect the Love, "a place where people who are crazy in love with their dogs and cats can interact and share with those just like them!"  (Sounds like my kind of place.)

This is how I remind mom when it's
time for my monthly Vectra application

Not a new product, but a cool product -- our friends at K9 Carry All make custom-made leashes with your name, your rescue's name, your company's name, or whatever you want on them.  (I'd love to get a special TWAGR leash once I have a logo.)  They also carry other great products such as doggie first aid kits, dog-friendly wrapping paper, and doggie strollers.

Personalized leashes from K9 Carry All

Zuke's, another sponsor of BarkWorld, makes some of our favorite training treats, Zuke's Mini Naturals.  Mini Naturals make perfect training treats because they are small, soft, and low-calorie.  Sugar's momma discovered that having some Zuke's treats was one way to get my attention for photos.

Sugar's mom is holding a bag of Zuke's treats
(see top of photo)

We didn't just learn about products, we also learned about some cool new services.  Mom had the opportunity to meet and speak with the founder of and learn all about what they do.  Most people hate to leave their pets when they go away, but sometimes they have to (like when my parents go to Arizona and they can't take me with them on the plane). provides an alternative to leaving your pet in a kennel by hooking pet parents up with people who will take care of pets in their homes.  We think this is a fantastic idea because we know pets are more comfortable in a home with a family than in even the nicest of kennels.  And is set up to take care of all of the logistics -- finding a pet sitter, providing them with your pet's information, paying them, etc. 

I'll be hosting a giveaway of gift cards soon

Mom is VERY excited about a new service from Pet Care Rx called Protection Plus -- the first ever prescription card for pets.  Mom says prescriptions cost a huge amount, so she thinks this is a great way that pet parents can save money on their pets' veterinary expenses.  Protection Plus offers savings of up to 75% on prescriptions as well as additional savings on vet visits, vaccinations and more.  Visit for more info.

There was lots of other awesome stuff at BarkWorld, and I got LOTS of great swag.  I'll be hosting some swag giveaways soon, so stay in touch.  If you haven't already, please go "like" my new facebook fan page TWAGR: The World According to Garth Riley.  Thanks!

Mom thought it would be funny to cover
me up in Barkworld swag . . .
I beg to differ