Resort Trainer Helps Reestablish National Therapy Dog Organization

Bob Wharton has been a professional dog trainer with Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center for three years. He enjoys teaching the Puppy Preschool and Proper Petiquette small group training classes. His life-long passion for working with dogs started with training family dogs throughout the years.

“Puppies and younger dogs want to learn and please a parent. When I am training just the puppy (without the owner), besides enjoying them being in their “cuteness” stage, I love to challenge the puppy to learn the commands and to do them on cue and well!  When I’m instructing a group class for puppies and owners, I like the challenge of teaching the owners to become trainers. I love seeing the progress each week,” said Bob.therapy dog

Bob and his Golden Retriever, Jackson, have been a certified therapy team for six years with over 1400 visits completed together. In 2015, Bob devoted time to establishing a Bucks County chapter of Therapy Dogs International. That was only the beginning of his commitment to the development of therapy dog organizations.

Currently, Bob and Jackson are an active therapy dog team with the recently reestablished Angel On A Leash organization. Bob also evaluates and tests for the American Kennel Club (AKC) S.T.A.R. (Socialization, Training, Activity and Responsible Owner) Puppy program, the Canine Good Citizen program, and the AKC Trick Dog program.

The original Angel On A Leash organization—which disbanded in 2016–was founded in 2004 by David Frei, a renowned breeder, show-dog handler and judge, former announcer for the Westminster Dog Show and currently an announcer for the NBC National Dog Show.

Bob joined Steven Kramer—a friend of David Frei—in 2019 to reestablish Angel On A Leash. The leadership efforts of Bob and Steven launched the group of over 60 therapy dog teams serving throughout Bucks County as well as the Wilkes Barre area in Northeast Pennsylvania, and in New Jersey.

The organization and its therapy teams, known as Champion Therapy Dog Teams, are dedicated to providing comfort and companionship by visiting area schools, senior care facilities, hospitals, and fulfilling other community requests for therapy dog visits. Additionally, the organization provides therapy dog training and certification.

“Angel On A Leash is a growing, professional organization that is committed to service in our communities, and the education, training and support of our dog handler teams. We support the bonding of the dog and handler’s relationship as a working unit. It’s important for our volunteers to work as one team that helps each other and the community alike,” said Bob.

Jackson was recently presented with the American Kennel Club (AKC) Paw of Courage award as recognition for service to the community and contribution to helping others during this pandemic. therapy dog

A visit with a therapy dog can provide much comfort in times of need, even if it’s a virtual visit. At a time when families cannot be with loved ones residing in senior living and memory care facilities, Bob and Jackson have been sharing videos and photographs with residents weekly.

They also continue bringing comfort to first graders from an area elementary school they had been visiting regularly. A special book written and illustrated by Bob that features Jackson as the main character was electronically sent to the home of each student. In addition to their weekly virtual visits sharing photos and videos, this book allows students to be with Jackson during story time with family.

Interested in serving as a therapy dog team? Angel on a Leash is working to increase membership and build chapters across the country. To become a certified therapy dog, the dog must first show good temperament, earn the AKC Canine Good Citizenship title, and then pass the Angel On A Leash therapy dog test.

The Puppy Preschool and Proper Petiquette group training classes at Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center are six-week sessions with two professional trainers working with only five or six dogs and parents. The small group size provides the benefits of a one-on-one atmosphere and attention with a trainer. Bob incorporates elements of the AKC S.T.A.R Puppy Program into his training. The S.T.A.R program focuses on three areas: puppy behaviors, owner behaviors, and Canine Good Citizens test behaviors.

“The first sixteen weeks of a puppy’s life are the most crucial for socialization. This is the period in a puppy’s life where it develops relationships with other living beings and also learns how to behave and act in new environments. To reduce the possibility of fearful responses as a puppy grows and matures, it is essential to expose young puppies to many stimuli. Introduce your puppy to as many new people and environmental situations as possible during this period,” added Bob.

For more information about Free Puppy Social Hour at Holiday House Pet Resort & Training Center or details about the training programs—including group classes—call 215-345-6960.

Angel on a Leash®, Inc. (AOAL), is a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer therapy dog handler teams (Champions) to visit with anyone that would benefit from the human-canine bond in enhancing human health and quality of life. All handler-dog teams (Champions) are tested, certified, registered by AOAL. Call 215-478-6762 or visit for information on how to become an “Angel on a Leash” member or to schedule one of the group’s dog handler teams to visit your school, nursing facility or other site out in the community.