How to become a Therapy Dog Volunteer

SitStay How To Become A Therapy Dog VolunteerAre you looking to become a therapy dog volunteer, partnered with your beloved pooch? Does Fido have a knack for comforting people of all ages resulting in smiles and relaxation? If so, becoming a therapy dog volunteer may well be right up your alley. While it may not be overly difficult, qualifying and certification do require a bit of work for both you and your dog. We’ll review the process below.

One of the most important things to remember is by and large, most facilities and hospitals will never allow you and your dog to enter without being certified first. Even the friendliest pets can act out and thus for the safety of those you would be visiting, as well as liability issues, certification is usually mandatory. There are many therapy dog training organizations but picking the most reputable to begin the certification process should be your ultimate goal. Beware of utilizing reputable programs that do not evaluate in person. All programs typically include 4 elements.

  • Extensive evaluation of your prospective therapy dog
  • Classes for you as the handler
  • Continuing training requirements, often a monthly class
  • Veterinary health checks and approval

There is no need to worry about the breed of dog, the majority of programs accept any and all breeds including mutts as it based on temperament, obedience and ability to remain calm and controlled in all situations. The evaluation remains the most important part of the process. You should expect your dog to be tested on interactions with strangers, tolerance of handling/touching all body parts as well as being hugged or held, reactions to startling situations including wheelchairs and crutches, and lastly obedience to the handler. 

Once the evaluation is completed and passed, it is easy sailing for the remainder of the certification process. As long as your dog is healthy and you maintain any continuing requirements of the program you were certified by, you’re ready to start working as a team. Be sure to inquire about the requirements of places you intend to visit for any additional needs. Some hospitals won’t take dogs without liability insurance. Others may be particular about which organizations you obtain certification from. With all that completed and leash in hand, be prepared to go out and put smiles on the faces of those who need it most.

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