Spring news from The Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin!
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In this issue: 
A Special Partnership with Therapy Animals
Product Praise: Dog Reins
Recommended Reads
Educational Opportunities
A Special Partnership
Written by FFTW Member Laura Hey, Founder of Health Heelers Therapy Dogs
Image credit: Health Heelers Therapy Dogs

What creature can make a calculus equation seem less daunting, help you remember your shopping list, keep angry teens from fighting, and improve your overall well-being?  

Answer...a therapy animal!

A therapy animal is typically a family pet that is exceedingly social, and becomes specially trained and tested along with his/her owner, to provide affection and pleasure to people in the community. A service animal on the other hand is extensively trained to perform tasks to assist an individual with a disability.

Therapy animals often provide casual social visits to people in nursing homes, adult day centers, and hospices; or may be actively involved in sessions alongside therapists, teachers and counselors (Therapy Dogs Help Froedtert’s Rehabilitation Patients) Either way, the benefit to those they spend time with is huge! Most commonly, therapy animals are dogs, although cats, bunnies and other domestic species can be therapy animals too.

Our own hearts have long told us that pets enrich our lives. Now scientific evidence tells us how! Neurological, chemical and hormonal changes occur during time with a therapy animal and can positively impact the way we think, feel, behave, and move! We’ve seen it happen or have heard touching stories of the nursing home resident who hadn’t spoken for some time, until the therapy cat was in her lap; the therapy dog that motivated a young child to finally walk after surgery.

So what makes a good therapy animal? Just like jobs people have, jobs for animals require a specific skill set and personality. Appropriate identification of therapy animals is based in part on the animal’s social interest, manners, obedience skills, and confidence. There are things we can do to increase the likelihood of a dog being a suitable candidate for the role of therapy dog.

Positive socialization and positive training are musts! Dogs develop positive qualities from exposure to pleasant, positive experiences. They learn best from a benevolent leader who is patient, clear, and gentle! Training a dog using force-free methods is the best way to groom your dog to be confident, social, and happy to serve you and others!

What are the steps to becoming a therapy partner with your pet?
  • Build skills, confidence, and character in your dog by enrolling in a positive reinforcement training class.
  • Check out membership requirements of various therapy animal groups. Two leading national organizations are Pet Partners ( and Intermountain Therapy Animals ( Choose one that supports your enlightened relationship.
  • An objective assessment by a licensed evaluator along with complete adherence to high standards is critical for the safety and well being of all involved.
  • Health Heelers offers one additional step that can take the guess work out of the process. Free pre-screenings assess your pet’s potential, interest and readiness for the job of therapy pet!
The world is full of kind, generous, and well-meaning people; some of whom want to share the love their pet gives, with others. As therapy animals become increasingly popular, having one is an attractive option for some people.
If you do have the opportunity to be a therapy team, always keep in mind the needs of your animal partner. Appropriate handlers understand their pet’s interests, needs, emotions and limits, and demonstrate respect and support of their animal at all times. Learn to read your animal’s body language and signs of stress. Understand that therapy animals are not suited for every setting; even if you have broad interests. The frequency and duration of visits needs to determined by your pet’s comfort and endurance, not by a clock on the wall. Quality is better than quantity!

Let’s be the best we can be for our loving and wonderful pets who give so much! And if becoming a therapy team isn’t in your future, you still have a great dog! Consider experiencing other meaningful activities together such as canine nose work, rally obedience, tricks class and more; all offered by the great members of the Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin

Laura Hey is a Certified Animal-Assisted Specialist, Founder of Health Heelers Therapy Dogs, Business Member of the Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin and member of The Pet Professional Guild. She trains therapy animals and their handlers, exclusively, and designs Animal-Assisted Therapy programs.

Product Praise: Dog Reins
This month's Product Praise comes from
FFTW Member, Rebekah Klemm, owner of Madison Dog Walkers.
As a dog walker, I’m always in search of a great tool that can help me manage the dogs that like to pull on leash while still being easy to use, effective, and humane. I used to advocate for front-clip harnesses, but I never really liked the way the dog would step over the leash if it was slack, causing mild discomfort and risking chafing. Plus, it was annoying for me to constantly have to stop the walk to untangle the dog.

The Dog Reins! No Pull Harness/Leash overcomes this problem by having two points of contact on the sides of the harness that sweep nicely back towards the handler. Tangling or stepping over the leash is no longer an issue. In addition, the Dog Reins! has a nicely padded chest strap and sits well out of the way of the shoulder blades, allowing a full range of movement. It’s priced affordably ($40 for the harness, chest padding, and leash), is easy to take on and off, and best of all, it works well. So, what’s the downside to this harness? It only comes in Medium and Large sizes, so those of us with small dogs that like to pull are stuck with traditional front-clip harnesses – for now. The Dog Reins! No Pull Harness/Leash is available for purchase online at"
Recommended Reads
Written by FFTW Member, Jen Digate, owner of Wild Canine

Dogs Don't Believe Information from Liars
Published by Psychology Today

In Search of Excellence: Effective Practice
By Alexandra Kurland

What's in a Name?
By Kay Laurence
Upcoming Education Opportunities

Doggie Egg Hunt 

Saturday, March 28th from 10:00am - 1:00pm 
Sussex, WI


CLICK HERE for seminar details and online registration


Event host:

The Dog Sanctuary Enrichment Center, FFTW Business Member

Flea & Tick Alternative Measures - Free Lecture

Sunday, March 29th
Steven's Point


CLICK HERE to contact the event host for additional information.


Event host:
Pawsitively Unleashed!, FFTW Business Member

Spring into Wellness: Positive approaches to support your canine companion
Saturday, April 11th from 10:45am - 4:00pm 
Wauwatosa - Hart Park Muellner Building
CLICK HERE for seminar details and online registration
Presentations by:


From Reactive to Responsive

Saturday, April 11th and Sunday, April 12th
Steven's Point


CLICK HERE to contact the event host for additional information.


Event host:
Pawsitively Unleashed!, FFTW Business Member

Roger Abrantes: Scent Detection Workshop

May 8th -10th


CLICK HERE to contact the event host for additional information.


Event host:
Pawsitively Unleashed!, FFTW Business Member


Susan Friedman: Living and Learning with Animals
Sunday, November 8th & Monday, November 9th

Wauwatosa - Radisson Hotel

CLICK HERE for full event details!

Event Host:
Wisconsin Humane Society
Get in Touch!
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Copyright © 2014 Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin. 
All rights reserved.

Information and advice provided in this newsletter is general in nature and should not be relied upon to solve any particular situation. For all issues with your companion animals, please seek the services of a competent and qualified professional.  The authors and publishers shall have neither liability nor responsibility for any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused by the information in this newsletter.

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