Become a Therapy Dog Handler and Make a Difference!
Therapy dogs bring smiles, brighten the room, and offer a reprieve from endless grief. Dogs can sit quietly, absorbing and washing away a person’s sadness. They don’t mind if their beautiful coat becomes soaked with tears, and they don’t ask anything in return.
Therapy dogs visit rest homes, schools, group homes, children’s homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation homes. They can be part of a special emergency response team, such as TIP (Trauma Intervention Program), and work on-call to provide support to those facing “the worst day of their life”.
As a volunteer, you and your dog can work independently or with an organization. If you plan on visiting multiple facilities or desire to volunteer with a larger organization, you will most likely be required to be certified as a “therapy dog team.”
As an independent volunteer visiting one facility regularly, you may find that you do not need to be certified as a “therapy dog team.” Each facility has its own policy for visiting therapy animals. Call and ask what their requirements are. They may require no certification, or they may require you be certified by a specific organization, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs. They may also require a background check or flu vaccine. Often, if you are visiting a family member daily in a rest home, they may only require the pet’s vaccine records.
Whether you visit one facility or many, achieve certification with one organization or the other, or become certified at all, you MUST have a dog with the right personality and skills to do the job safely and effectively.
NOT ALL DOGS WANT TO BE THERAPY DOGS!
Does your dog enjoy being next to you and petted? Does he or she nudge or elicit petting from strangers? Or does she duck away when being reached for?
NOT ALL DOGS HAVE THE SKILLS TO BE THERAPY DOGS
Is your dog extremely well socialized? Not fearful of men, women, children, hats, gloves, medical equipment, dogs, cats? Is he or she calm and relaxed, or hyper and jumping on guests? Has your dog ever growled, snapped at, nipped, or bitten another person or dog?
REQUIREMENTS FOR A THERAPY DOG
1. Desire to be petted and interact calmly with people.
2. Calm personality, not overly excitable or hyper.
3. Well trained in obedience skills heel, sit, down, and stay.
4. Socialized with dogs, cats, children, men, women, seniors, slippery floors, loud noises, sirens, stairs, elevators, wheelchairs, walkers, people with unsteady gaits, noisy medical equipment, loud speakers, and more.
5. Goes to the bathroom outside before and after each therapy visit. Never soils during a therapy visit.
6. Never a history (during a therapy visit or at any time) of growling, snapping, nipping, or biting a person or another animal. Any aggression or history of aggression disqualifies the animal.
NEXT STEP …. CERTIFICATION!!!
Katie Weibel, Master Dog Trainer. Providing training for companion, service and working dogs, sharing knowledge and expertise.