April 11th marks Dog Therapy Appreciation Day, and we talked to our certified dog trainer, Mariah Prudhume, about training two adorable miniature poodles, Kevin (26382) and Kenny (26480), to become therapy dogs at Valley Animal Center.
In August of last year, Aspire Counseling Services reached out to Mariah asking if we offered dog therapy. At the time, Mariah had officially launched affordable dog training services. The idea of offering dog therapy was an exciting new venture for her and moved forward with making it happen.
Kevin was rescued from Fresno Humane Animal Services in February, and when Mariah first met him, she knew he’d be an exceptional therapy dog and began the process of training him. Kevin is a 5-year-old miniature poodle with a calm personality. He is very sweet and collected, loves sitting on laps, and making strong eye contact.
“Kevin does well in retirement communities,” Mariah said. “They really love him.”
After spending a couple of weeks training Kevin, Mariah thought that having two therapy dogs would be best and welcomed another miniature poodle, Kenny, to her crew. Kenny is 3 years old and his personality greatly differs from Kevin’s; he is a rambunctious and playful cutie who loves being in the company of children and young adults.
“It’s cool to have dogs that are so different,” Mariah said. “They can actually give people what they need at that moment of time.”
As far as training Kevin and Kenny to become therapy dogs, Mariah uses American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test as a guideline. The 10-skill test teaches good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to their owners, and it is a great starting point for all potential therapy dogs, according to AKC.
“We are honestly almost there,” Mariah said about their training.
Because Mariah has to spend a lot of time training Kevin and Kenny, the two experience separation anxiety when she isn’t present. Mariah is working to help treat their anxiety and is hopeful they’ll be ready to fulfill their jobs soon.
So far, Kevin and Kenny have been able to assist two different groups: at-risk youths and retired senior citizens.
“Dogs have that natural medicinal ability,” Mariah said. “When people have bad days, a dog’s love and affection seem to melt those stressors. They especially help at-risk youths who don’t understand how to come to terms with their feelings. When they are in a group, a dog can ease their anxieties and what they’re feeling. They place their attention on the dog and not the problems they face in their day-to-day lives. For memory care residents, they get excited every five minutes because they get a new therapy pet to interact with. It’s amazing to see how, as we walk up, they light up.”
For those interested in affordable dog training or dog therapy, please reach out to Mariah at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 840-4191. Currently, she is working to grow her clientele and is always happy to hear from members of our community.
Valley Animal Center is dedicated to serving animal companions in the Central Valley and beyond. Our mission is to unite dogs and cats with loving people. We believe every animal deserves a loving family and furever home. Donate to support our endless mission as we care for hundreds of homeless dogs and cats.