Rescue vs. Breeder for Therapy Dog - Havanese Forum : Havanese Forums
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 12:53 AM Thread Starter
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Question Rescue vs. Breeder for Therapy Dog

Hi Y'all! I hope that this is the right place to put my question ... if not, I do apologize!

My name is Laura and I am an art therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor, working primarily with children, many of whom have been abused/neglected. My employer recently announced that they would be starting an Animal Assisted Therapy program in the next 6 months. Also, my baby Lila (a rescued Bichon Frise) is getting older (at 12.5 years) and slowing down, and I recognize that I don't want an empty house when she crosses the rainbow bridge in the next few years. Both of those reasons have made now the time for me to find another dog to add to my family. I am a firm believer in rescue, and all of my pets growing up and now as an adult have come via rescue/shelter adoption. However, I also know that there are benefits, when wanting a successful therapy dog, to starting with a puppy and "raising them right" from the start, so I have also been in touch with Havanese breeders as well.

I am now in a situation where I'm torn between an adult Havanese mix rescue dog and a full Havanese puppy and am looking to the experts for advice. I had applied for Fonzi but there was already an approved application for him, so I thought I had missed out. Late tonight I got an email that the adoption fell through and he is available again and I'm "next in line" for consideration. Naturally, I sent his foster mom a long list of questions for more details about him to ensure he's a good fit, but I'm really struggling with what to do.

Anyway, to my main question. To those of you who have done or are familiar with Animal Assisted Therapy, especially with children, would you recommend starting with a puppy (who of course wouldn't be around the kids until he was much older) or do you think an adult dog, with the right training and temperament, could be successful?

I love my Lila, and I'd never give her up for anything, but she's a mill rescue and far too neurotic to ever be a therapy dog. I don't want that to happen again. Also, selfishly, part of me doesn't want to miss out on the sweetness of "puppyhood" again by adopting an older dog. Still another part of me feels some guilt for thinking about "buying" a dog when there are so many out there in need of homes (no offense to any responsible breeders intended as you have my utmost respect).

So, my first post is a book! Thank you for making it this far and for your expert opinions. I have very much enjoyed lurking on this board so far and you've already taught me so much!

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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 03:24 AM
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I dont work with therapy animals, but i think that both have there ups and downs, you can train a puppy from the very start, but an adopted animal, depending how he was trained when you get him and at his old home, could turn into a wonderful therapy animal.
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 10:02 AM
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I adopted/bought Sergio from a breeder when he was 2. I think the benefit if an older dog is what you see is what you get. I knew his temperament was sweet and lovable. I work with a trainer for an hour a week. Yesterday I learned how to get a handle on the treats and I taught him to sit. He did it immediately for me once I learned how. I would be concerned about a rescue that was abused by kids and the dog not wanting to be around kids for therapy play. Find out as much as you can about the rescue's background. It sounds like you really want a puppy. Don't feel guilty about buying from a breeder.
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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 10:12 AM
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Sounds like you have thought things out-of course a puppy can't be exposed to unfamiliar situations until they have been through classes and are older. But the same holds true for a older Rescue dog-

IMO-a older dog-and by that I mean 1 yr and older will need to first be comfortable in the home sitting-be comfortable with you and bonded to you-takes time but worth every hr you spend bonding. And will need to have completed at least the first level of obedience training before going to the therapy training it should require to work with children. I have two older dogs-one I would not hesitate to work into a therapy program because she loves people the other one would never be comfortable in that sitting. Good luck either way you go-
Also if you are going the puppy journey-BE SURE to find a Great Breeder to get your puppy from-Health Testing of the Dam & Sire are a must-and early socialization of the puppy should also be a huge factor in choosing the breeder.

Good Luck-keep us posted in your search.
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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 10:28 AM
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I agree with Michele; you need not feel guilty if you decide to get a pup from a reputable breeder. You have already rescued at least one dog - Lila - and clearly given her a good life.

If you do decide to buy from a breeder (and I'd suggest that at this point, considering what you want); you'll need to enlist the breeder's assistance in choosing the right puppy for your needs.

Shelter dogs can make good therapy dogs; at least, that's what I've read - I read VERY widely on the Internet. But if you get a puppy, you can particularly shape that puppy's experiences to enhance its future abilities as a therapy dog.

Of course, there's never a guarantee that a particular dog or puppy will make a good therapy dog, but I believe you have your best chance if you find a really good breeder (see elsewhere on the forum for selecting one), and enlist that breeder's help in choosing just the right puppy for you.

Sat, 31 Mar 2012 07:27:56 (PDT)

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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 10:58 AM
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I agree with Carol, and would add that once you and your breeder choose the RIGHT puppy, then you have to make sure that from the day you bring your puppy home, it has many, MANY positive experiences with (calm, supervised) young children, as often as possible.

We happen to live next to an in-home day care. When Kodi was a puppy, we would have all the children sit in a circle on the ground, with two or three tiny treats (or pieces of kibble) each. We would have one after another (in turn) call him over, stroke his back and give him a treat. They learned how to handle a puppy gently, and he learned that they weren't scary!

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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 11:44 AM Thread Starter
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Thank y'all so much for your input and thoughts. I really appreciate it! I will definitely keep you posted on what I decide and look forward to being more a part of this community as I learn and grow with whichever dog I decide to give a forever home. Laura

PS: Finn is the name I chose for my future dog, just in case my name was confusing, LOL.
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 12:13 PM
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Well, I have to chime in here. All 3 of my dogs are therapy dogs. Two came from breeders, and although I didn't know that I wanted to do animal assisted therapy at the time, I asked for relatively calm puppies. (They are 3 years apart in age). I got what I asked for and saw that they would be good therapy dogs and went through the training and testing process. Chico does the READ program and also animal assisted therapy at a rehab hospital. Cali visits the folks in the nursing home.

Then came Finnegan! I am a volunteer for HRI (Havanese Rescue Inc.) and I always check to see what dogs are coming into rescue. I saw him-he was Hershey at the time- and liked him. I kept looking at his picture and reading all about him. I think I fell in love with him online I talked with his foster mom and what she told me about him made me think that he would be a good therapy dog.
Long story short, Finnegan came home to us from Havanese Rescue Inc., and within 6 months we did the training and he passed the test. He is a very good therapy dog, and I have to brag that he is the very first Havanese to participate in Animal Assisted therapy at NIH (National Institutes of Health) In DC. This is a very high level of animal assisted therapy.
Finn loves being a therapy dog and when he sees me get the vest out, he goes crazy, ready to run out the door to visit.
In my opinion, if you'd like to rescue a dog for therapy, talk to the foster and to the group and ask a lot of questions about the dog's temperament. I just looked at Fonzi's bio and he sounds very nice, but you need more info before you decide. Many HRI dogs end up as therapy dogs. some of them are the sweetest dogs you will ever meet. You just have to do a lot of investigating before you decide.
A puppy from an experienced breeder is a good choice also, but do consider the rescue dog in your decision making.
Good luck!

Chico, Cali, and Finnegan
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Nan. Your story about your Finn warms my heart and I'm so impressed that he works with the NIH! How old was he when you adopted him? Since you have been through this process, can you suggest any questions or information that I should be sure to ask and consider in making my decision? Thank you so much for your valuable input, I am very grateful. Laura

Last edited by DogMomtoFonzi; 03-31-2012 at 12:31 PM.
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 03-31-2012, 04:18 PM
Chico and Cali
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Hi Laura,
Finnegan was 2 when we got him and had been in the foster home about 6 weeks. The foster mom told me a lot about him on the phone, and I knew from HRI that he was raised as a puppy in a family with children.( Due to family issues they couldn't keep him.)The foster mom told me that she and her husband loved Finnegan and were considering keeping him. She told me that he was housebroken and very friendly and sweet. So that was it for me. I now know that I took a big chance because I didn't meet him before he came to us from out-of-state.
I am assuming that you will get to meet Fonzi or any other rescue? Maybe you could take a trusted trainer with you to help evaluate his temperament in regards to doing therapy. Even if you pay someone, it would be worth it, because you will have the dog for many years and want to make certain he has the temperament that you are looking for.

I would ask the foster how he relates to people of all ages. Does he approach visitors, looking to be petted? Is he relatively calm, and not fearful, affectionate? It doesn't matter if he knows commands etc.,because you will be teaching him all that. If it is a good foster home and the foster has had him more than just a few days, she should be able to give you the information that you need. I think that the rescue should have been in the foster home long enough to settle down a bit and show his true temperament.
Maybe someone else on the forum, breeders or therapy folks, could add to this.

Oh, and I agree with the others that if you REALLY want a puppy, you should go for it and not feel guilty about the rescue issue.
Best of Luck!

Chico, Cali, and Finnegan
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