The ability to calm and comfort those who need it can make dogs a valuable addition to various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and assisted living centers. The process for getting your dog certified as a therapy dog varies from region to region. However, there are some important things you should know about the process before you get started.
1. Make Sure Your Dog is a Good Fit for Therapy
It’s important to make sure that your dog is a good fit for therapy work. Here are some things to consider:
- Your dog should be friendly and well-socialized with people, as well as other dogs and children. If he likes being petted, brushed, scratched behind his ears and belly, then he’ll probably enjoy visiting hospitals and nursing homes where patients love nothing more than some loving attention from a sweet animal companion!
- It’s also important that your dog doesn’t feel threatened by those who are elderly or disabled. If you’re taking him into a hospital setting where people may need assistance walking or standing up from their beds/chairs (if they’re able), make sure that your furry friend isn’t going to feel threatened by this activity—but rather will see it as an opportunity for fun!
2. Get Registered
If you want to certify your dog as a therapy dog, the first step is to register with an organization. You can find out which organizations are available in your area by checking their websites or asking around.
Once you’ve selected an organization, it’s time to get started on the registration process! The exact steps will vary depending on which organization you join, but here are some general guidelines:
- Keep in mind that there are several different types of therapy dogs and each has its own certification requirements. Make sure that whatever certification program you choose matches up with the type of work your dog does most often (for example, a pet therapy class vs library visits).
3. Take a Temperament Test (TT)
- What is a Temperament Test?
A temperament test is a series of exercises that help you evaluate your dog’s behavior in different situations. The tests are designed to determine whether the dog will be able to handle the stresses of being around other people, dogs and children, or if they would benefit from more training before being allowed near these groups.
- Why should I take my dog on a temperament test?
Taking your pet through his own TT will give you an idea about how he’ll react when meeting new people, animals or other stressors. It can also give you insight into how easily distracted he might be by certain stimuli and whether he needs further training to overcome any issues with attention span or impulse control.
4. Complete an Evaluation
Once you’ve successfully completed the training, it’s time to take your dog out for an evaluation. This will be a meeting with a member of the organization that is certifying your dog, who will evaluate his behavior and abilities. The evaluator will look at your dog’s behavior during several different activities and environments to make sure he can handle them well. You should bring:
You’ll also want to prepare yourself by:
- Making sure you’re on good terms with your evaluator before arriving
- Practicing with your dog so he knows what’s expected of him
5. Get Insured
- You need to have insurance for your dog. If you take your dog to visit a patient in a hospital, or if you bring them on an airplane, they will need to be covered by liability insurance. Make sure that the company you use can provide this coverage for both of these situations and for any other activities where liability may be an issue. Some people choose not to get their dogs insured because it costs too much money, but it is usually worth the cost if you want to avoid future problems with owning a therapy animal.
6. Sign Up for a Volunteer Job
Volunteering with a dog that has been certified in therapy work is a great way to get experience and build up your resume as well. The best place to look for volunteer positions is on-line at sites like Petfinder.com or the ASPCA Volunteer Center, where you can search by location and type of animal. If you don’t find anything right away, don’t give up! You may need to keep searching through different websites until you find an organization that matches both your personality and your dog’s temperament.
Once you’ve found an organization that works for both of you, ask about what kinds of jobs are available and how much time they expect volunteers to commit each week (or month). Most groups will be flexible when it comes to scheduling but if there’s too little flexibility in this area then it might not be worth trying out this particular group!