Saturday, January 5, 2013

Want to Introduce You and Your Dog to a New Adventure in 2013?

Let’s face it all dogs cannot be agility dogs. All dogs cannot learn how to drive a car. All dogs cannot teach kids to talk. Canines come in a lot of different packages and they have different personalities and purposes in life. Dogs with energy levels that go through the roof might make terrific agility dogs as they need a lot of exercise. Documented smart breeds like Border Collies just might pass the SPCA driving course. Then there are dogs, maybe mutts, who have Zen personalities and value a lot of quiet attention like Reba Messina did. I often thought she had a gift to be a therapy dog b/c she loved people and had a very sweet persona but I never took the time to look into it.

Maybe you’ve given some thought to your dog visiting children in hospitals or the elderly in nursing homes. Therapy dogs provide a lot of love, licks and joy during their visits. So I decided that I wanted to look into how to make that happen because I am going to find another Zen dog like Reba was to share my life with one day so that we can provide some happiness to others. Here are some tips on becoming a therapy team.
Could Your Dog Become a Therapy Dog?
Short answer:  To qualify, your dog must be friendly, well-behaved, and at least one year old. Observe how your dog acts around strangers. “Is he confident and eager to be petted? Those are signs that he’d be a good therapy dog.”
Pet Partners offers a 12-hour course on how to handle your dog in various settings, such as working with people who are in wheelchairs, have IV lines, or other medical equipment. After you and your dog pass a 22-part evaluation, Pet Partners will match you with volunteer opportunities at local schools, hospitals, or libraries that fit your pet’s talents.
Basic Obedience

In addition to basic obedience, a therapy dog must react positively with handling by strangers and new stimuli. According to Petfinder, there are many things in a hospital room, nursing home room or even a homebound person’s home that could be new to the dog, and it must not react to people and things in a negative manner.

Furthermore, most classes will make sure dogs are familiar with hospital equipment and that the dogs are properly socialized. This means that the dogs must get along with people and other animals. When visiting a hospital, strangers constantly walk in and out of rooms; and hallways are often hectic, especially if there is an emergency. Socialization teaches dogs not to fear people rushing around with equipment such as machinery and hospital beds.

Meet and Greet/Handling

Canines also learn the art of networking. Included in their training are meet and greet exercises, as most people in the facilities you visit will want to interact with your dog. Role playing for a hospital environment also teaches dogs not to fear the equipment and hurried actions often found in a hospital environment. The dogs’ handlers are also instructed on safe dog-handling; thus, should something happen in a hospital environment, the handler knows how to react to the situation. A calm handler means that the dog has a better chance of staying calm.

Sample Tests

Therapy Dogs International has 15 tests that a dog must pass to become a certified therapy dog. Mutts and purebred dogs must be able to pass the same test. The dogs must test on a plain buckle collar and must be at least a year old. The 15 tests include:
·         Accepting a friendly stranger
·         Sitting politely while someone pets the dog
·         Be well-groomed
·         Must be able to walk on a loose leash
·         Must be able to walk calmly through a crowd
·         Must be able to sit and down, plus stay in place on command
·         Must have excellent recall — coming when called
·         Must have a positive reaction to other dogs
·         Must not react negatively to distractions
·         Must not react negatively to medical equipment — some of which makes    “strange” noise
·         Must know and obey the “Leave it” command
·         Must show confidence when exposed to people who walk with an uneven gait or who wheeze, cough heavily or breathe heavily
·         Must show that it will listen to another person as well as the dog listens to its handler
·         Must be willing to say hello, including showing positive reaction when placed on a person’s bed or in a person’s lap
·         Must work well and react positively to children
So once your dog has passed a therapy test, he/she will be certified to proudly wear a working vest, do therapy work for hospitals, nursing homes and other direct care facilities that welcome therapy dogs. It’s a win-win. The patients get some puppy love and the dogs get some human love!  Some facilities may also accept a dog with an AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award.  

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Cat Chat With Caren And Cody said...

well...there go my dreams of having Dakota be a therapy dog.
He used to be great when we would take him to the nursing home to visit my father-in-law but he does not pass some of the items on your list :(

Misaki @ misadventuresofMisaki said...

I'd love to be a therapy dog, I'm super friendly and I love to lick everyone! But mummy says I'm too enthusiastic and get carried away when excited. Perhaps when I'm older:-(

Carol Bryant said...

Great ideas and my previous dog was a pet therapy dog. Dex so far has his CGC papers.