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The Miracle Mutt

By Gail Radtke

© Gail Radtke

…when [Lanie] was a year old, I applied to the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program in Maple Ridge, BC. This is a Canada-wide program that involves certified handlers and dogs volunteering their time to visit hospitals and senior care homes in their area…The conditioning process in a graded-task approach was vital to having a dog who can work with noise, yelling or anything startling. We had to ensure that we worked below Lanie’s startle threshold and maintained a positive association with whatever we were exposing her to. Luckily, Lanie is highly food-driven and has a wonderful play drive, so reinforcement with toys was also utilized. As a nursing home environment can be unpredictable, habituating Lanie to sudden loud noises was important. Lanie had been brought into the institutional environment in the latter part of her primary socialization period at approximately eight weeks old, and this early exposure gave her a positive association with novel or unknown stimuli and unpredictable human behavior. Read more.


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