Dogs Leave Paw Prints On Your Heart Forever

Hi, I’m Charlie, and this is my story. My human mom is a retired teacher, and my dad is a retired minister. Finding me was a journey which involved a lot of prayer. If you want to read about that process, it will be on another page titled, “Finding the Right Puppy For the Purpose, Temperament is Key”.

Since we are a faith based family, finding, educating, and developing me as a therapy dog, and becoming a therapy dog team was a journey which involved a few mistakes, a lot of prayer, and a lot of work. It is our hope that these writings will help the reader along the path to becoming a therapy dog and more.

Selecting the Right Puppy for the Purpose

My human parents learned after getting my half-brother Jack’son, that ALL Dogs Have a God Given Purpose. Becoming a Therapy Dog was not for Jack’son; he doesn’t have the right temperament that is needed to be a successful Therapy Dog. The obvious question that follows, especially if you are selecting a puppy to become a therapy dog, is how do you know what the different characteristics are; and subsequently, which characteristics are best for which purpose?

My breeder, a therapist herself, Denise Hoyt, MMFT, LMFT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Lighthouse Center for Counseling, graciously shared some information that she uses to help owners acquire the puppy best suited for their needs and family situations.

“Temperament is the Most Important Quality”

Temperament is the most important quality to assess when choosing a young puppy you would like to train for therapy work, thus some breeds are better suited to this type of work than others. However, even within a breed of dog, temperament has many different variables.

When I sell puppies from my litters, I assess buyers and their lifestyle, and ask that they allow me to choose a puppy to fit them…because I know a puppy’s temperament. I also know that if I make a poor match, this dog may well be returned back to me, as is my policy. Is this a family with young children who are timid around dogs? Or kids who are constantly outside running and playing? Is this an older couple who goes for quiet walks around the block, or a family who goes on hikes? Is this dog going to be a service dog or therapy dog? Rather than have an inexperienced buyer pick out a puppy, I ask them to allow me to suggest a puppy for them. Because I want to match that solid/steady pup to be a therapy/service dog. That smart, willful pup will go to an experienced dog owner. That energetic, playful pup to the family with older children. That easy-going pup goes to the couple who takes a walk around the block.

As well as being a breeder of golden retrievers, I am a therapist for the two-legged creatures that are their masters. When I work with people in therapy and with their relationships, I’m assessing their attachment type, and that’s what I’ve realized, that I’m doing with raising puppies for therapy work: Raising pups who have healthy attachments to humans: Secure attachment types versus attachment types which are anxious, dismissive, or fearful. As a breeder who specifically breeds for golden retrievers, who will become therapy dogs, I am watching those puppies interact with his litter mates, as well as how he interacts with my other adult dogs. I am beginning to assess from about 4-5 weeks of age. By the time the pups are five weeks old, I’m beginning to form an opinion about them, and at around seven weeks old, that opinion is typically confirmed. We raise these pups in home and introduce them to strangers, and to the outside world in a way which allows them to have secure boundaries that grow larger and broader as the puppies become secure in the confines of the day before.

Therapy Service Dog Qualities

What qualities in a puppy are needed for successful therapy or service work? First, the puppy is not overly vocal, or overly quiet. With its litter mates, it is neither a bully, nor does it shrivel from a challenge. It likes and gravitates to humans, yet settles down quickly after being removed from them. When I watch a litter of puppies come up to the fence in their kennel (and they’ve recently been fed and have been playing), most jump and climb to get my attention. However, I’m watching for the puppies who will do that, but then also which will settle back from the pack and watch me. When introduced to new environments they are observant and inquisitive…though they might be slightly startled by something new, they do not run away with their tails between their legs. Instead, they quickly become inquisitive. They show a healthy respect for adult dogs who aren’t their mother; they may play and tug ears, but when the adult dog gruffs ‘no’ the puppy stops trying to dominate. Furthermore, you can roll the puppy on his back and rub his tummy, and once there, he won’t struggle to get away from you.

This is me, Grey Boy at age 6 weeks. Denise and her husband Jeff were showing how calm I was. I didn’t struggle

Puppies with the potential to be therapy, service, or emotional support dogs, don’t have a strong emotional response to sudden noise…they acknowledge that it’s there, but don’t cower or run away. When I offer a  puppy treats or toys, I look at their level of energy and persistence? I want them to be neither hyper and demanding, nor just wanting to be petted. I want them to share willingly. Additionally, they may instigate a tug of war, rather than being possessive. When I hold out a treat or toy as I back away from the pup, I want them to follow happily, but not nip at my ankles nor need coaxing. When I stand in front of a pup, and then bend over to pet them, I want them to just relax and allow me to love on them vs jumping at my face or cowering away. I also look for them to not be overly sensitive to being touched. If the puppy is standing there, will they let me hold their back legs off the floor for a few seconds; do they become defensive, or do they allow me to do so with gentle licks or gentle chewing. Obviously, if they are defensive, that one is not for therapy work. Finally, I can gently squeeze between their toes without them getting ruffled.

An ideal pup for therapy work with children or seniors will  become an adult who is easygoing and gentle, yet self-assured. It will relax along with you, but be ready to run and play when you are; it will easily move back and forth between these two worlds of activity and relaxation in order to match your energy level.

Denise, is the one who selected me for the work I do today. I visit at three different assisted living centers and one elementary school. My human mom says that I am everything they prayed for and more. If you are interested in eventually obtaining a puppy from my excellent breeder, you may contact Denise at