Q & A with Gary Arnold of Canine Assistants
We couldn’t be more envious of Gary Arnold and the team of expert instructors and volunteers at Canine Assistants in Milton, Georgia. Why? Because they get to spend every day with gorgeous goldens, lovely Labs and devoted doodle dogs! Plus, they just welcomed a new litter of puppies. We caught up with Gary to find out more about this wonderful nonprofit.
What do you love most about your job?
Seeing the difference the dogs make in people’s lives is what keeps me going. I get to watch dog after dog take away hurt and replace it with laughter and happiness and hope.
What makes Canine Assistants different from other organizations?
At Canine Assistants, our primary value statement is “We Are Kind,” and I believe that three-word sentence captures the primary way in which Canine Assistants differs from other organizations. Our values mandate that we treat our co-workers, volunteers, donors, clients and animals with the utmost respect. In some other working dog programs, I’ve often seen kindness extend to everyone but the dogs themselves. I’m proud that our dogs are always treated with the same level of care and concern we extend to our clients. Our founder, Jennifer Arnold, developed an entirely new philosophical teaching method to living and working with dogs called the Bond Based™ Approach®. This philosophy focuses not on teaching dogs to obey, but rather on developing a reciprocal relationship with them based on unconditional love.
What qualities do the best Canine Assistants dogs have?
The dogs who make the best assistants are those who feel secure and enjoy their work. They’re comfortable in many situations and put others at ease too. These dogs attract positive attention when they’re with their partners, which helps break the social ice.
What other breeds are best-suited for being Canine Assistants?
Certain breeds like golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and golden doodles are naturals at this work given their affinity for people and positive personas.
What are your goals for Canine Assistants as an organization?
We want to change the way people think about dogs and about the working dog industry as a whole. And of course, we want to reach more people. So far we’ve paired more than 2,000 dogs with people who need them, but we want to go even further.
These dogs change lives every day, in all different ways. Not just the ways you would expect. For example, we have a reading program where children who are having trouble reading at school can read to the assistant dogs. It helps them become more comfortable and confident while reading. Another way our dogs help is as therapy dogs for people awaiting surgery or recovering in hospital. Even the surgeons themselves request time with the dogs to keep them calm and reduce their stress. The things these dogs can do are truly amazing.
What tip would you give to the parents of dogs who often misbehave?
The key is to ask why. Determining why a dog is doing something you don’t like is the real key to changing things. And remember that your dog is counting on you to cut him the same kind of slack he cuts you. Jennifer wrote a book, Through a Dog’s Eyes, which can help people figure out why dogs do what they do. She has another book, Love Is All You Need: The Art and Science of Non-training Your Dog, that explains the Bond Based™ Approach®.