Therapy dogs are household pets whose owners take them to visit nursing homes, schools, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, libraries and other facilities where people would benefit from interactions with the dogs. A therapy dog can be any breed or mix of breeds. Therapy dogs must have a friendly, patient temperament with people of all ages. They must also be comfortable in many different environments and interact well with other dogs they encounter.
Therapy dogs do not have the same privileges as a service dog. In the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.”. Services dogs have special access privileges in public places such as on planes, restaurants, etc. Therapy dogs do not have the same special access as service dogs. Therapy dogs must be given permission to enter the facilities they are visiting to do their work.
Before becoming certified therapy dog team, the dog and their owner must go through several steps. The first step is to evaluate your dog to be sure they have the right temperament for therapy work. You can do the evaluation on your own or call us for a free evaluation! I do recommend doing the evaluation in a location other than your home, since all therapy work will be done in various locations and facilities. During the evaluation the dog should be tested on their friendliness with strangers, their willingness to accept clumsy petting and strange gestures from strangers and their reaction to distractions (e.g.: something dropped on the floor, a wheel chair going by, having a jogger run by). Your dog should also be tested on its reaction to another dog. Even if you plan to do your therapy visits alone, there will be a time when you run into another dog while doing therapy work. Most importantly, your dog should appear happy and show very little signs of stress during the evaluation.
If it is determined that your dog does have the right temperament, the next step is to research groups and organizations in your area that can certify you and your dog for therapy work. The American Kennel Club offers a listing of some of these organizations throughout the country on their website. Some of the well-known groups are: Therapy Dogs Inc, Therapy Dogs International and Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society). Each group has their own testing requirements and some also require supervised therapy visits before they will certify you. As part of the test, almost all groups will use the test items from the Canine Good Citizen test. It is best that you do some research and find the organization that is the best fit for you and your dog. Be sure to look at the fees for testing, membership fees and what the benefits of membership are.
If you would like more information on Therapy Dog work, would like a free evaluation or need help training for the Canine Good Citizen test please contact us -803-210-9380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about our training programs visit our website at www.perfectpetdog.com
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