Spring is my absolute favorite season. I love gardening! My garden assistant, my husband, helps out and together we got a lot accomplished this weekend. Gardening always gets me thinking about how there are so many parallels with dogs. This year in the garden it was all about moving things around. I have some plants that just were not in the right spot. When a plant is in the wrong spot it really doesn’t thrive. In some cases the plant survives but in a weakened, sickly state, in other cases it just dies.
Dogs in the wrong environment also will not thrive. A dog that is put in a challenging role of working as a service dog when it does not have the right temperament for the job poses challenges for the public, the handler and the dog. The very process of training a dog for service work is stressful. Service dogs in training practice in complex environments. Even when the training method used is positive it is still very difficult for the dog. If the dog does not enjoy being around many different people, the dog will be forced to be in close proximity with many different people for long periods of time. A dog that might just have lived out his life being slightly aloof, could learn to show aggression. This is unsafe for the public and tragic for the dog.
The same thing can be said for therapy dogs. Therapy dogs should be confident and happy in many situations. Some therapy dog evaluations do not evaluate how the dog feels about the interactions. Some therapy dog evaluations only look at the dog’s obedience. If a dog is stressed by the therapy work, the stress itself could cause problems. Long term stress could impact the dog’s health and behavior. Behavior and health problems that may never have previously been seen could literally be created by putting a dog in a role that he or she is not suited for.
Career changing a dog is a lot harder than relocating a plant in most cases but it can be life changing for the dog. Just like a plant that has been moved to a better location, now the dog really stands a chance to bloom.