There seems to be confusion between the terms Certified and Registered Therapy dogs.
If your dog is registered it means that they are registered with a particular organization like Pet Partners, Paws and Think Inc., Therapy Dogs International, Love on a Leash, etc and that you are ONLY registered with that organization. If your dog is certified it may mean the same thing, if you took a class through a similar organization, or it may just be a piece of paper saying that you passed a class or evaluation. Confusing? Yes, I think so too! The answer is below.
If you are not volunteering for a specific organization then you are not registered with an organization.
Should you decide to affiliate yourself with one organization over another, then you would want to register your therapy team with them. In doing this you will most likely have to take a written manual test and possibly a class, as well as pass a working evaluation as a team with your dog. Once you have met and passed their requirements, then you will become a registered team with the organization for a predetermined amount of time. For example, Paws and Think, who I have volunteered with for nearly 5 years, does team re-evaluations every year. Re-evaluating yearly or bi-annually helps to insure that the teams that we send out into the community are well-mannered, well trained and predictable at the venues that we place them in. Should there be a behavior issue we would want to be the first to be aware of it during our re-evaluation, or from feedback from our venues.
There are other perks from being registered with one organization. Most reputable organizations carry insurance on their registered therapy teams while they are at their venues. It is also recommended that you carry your own liability insurance or add your therapy dog(s) to your homeowner’s policy. Each organization’s policies may be different. Be sure to stay up to date with policy changes.
Posted in AAA Training, Dog Training, Volunteering | Tagged additional training, affiliates, liability insurance, love on a leash, medical venues, paws and think inc., pet partners, policies, registered/certified therapy dogs, therapy dog international, therapy dog venues, therapy teams, visiting venues, working evaluations, written tests | Leave a Comment »
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) are team visits with patients, that are documented by doctors or professional medical personnel. These visits are also known as complex venues.
Generally a team that goes to a complex setting will be an experienced team. A team that has gone to routine venues on a regular basis for a time. Some organizations do not offer complex settings to any one except seasoned regulars. They first want to see the committment level of the team before raising the bar to the complex settings. This is a justifiable precaution. It is sad and amazing to me, how many people love to be able to say they have a registered therapy dog, but then don’t volunteer. What a waste of good intention and dog love!
Complex venues have you and your dog working directly with the patient, while the medical staff is documenting your time together. This information will become a permanent part of the patients medical file. Veterans hospitals utilize AAT regularly for mobility therapy. Dual leash walking, a dog that retrieves reliably, knows verbal commands and can read cue cards, are all extra skills that your dog should know when working in an AAT setting.
It is also important to make sure that your dog is emotionally equipped to visit some advanced venues. Hospice and Alzheimer care centers for instance can be an area for concern if your dog is of a sensitive nature.
I have had personal experience of this so I feel that I should mention it. I take my Golden Retriever mix to a nursing home medical center on a regular basis, which he excels at, so when the opportunity came up for me to take him to a facility that cares for Alzheimer and Hospice patients I readily signed up. The first time we visited, we only stayed for 45 minutes as he and I needed to get a feel for the place, the patients, the elevator and the routine. The second time we went, was better as there was no screaming and yelling from the patients and though we took an early break, afterwards he was more relaxed. We made it through the hour visit and went home. At 12:30am the following morning, my dog started having cluster seizures. He had 5 episodes before I could get him in the car and 4 more before I could get him to the emergency vet. He is 3 years old, has never had seizures before and has not had them since that morning. So there was no need for seizure preventative medicine. The vet and I believe that these seizures may have been caused by my dogs sensitivity to the hospice patients and their life expectancy.
It makes sense if you think about it. If dogs can sense and alert to when someone is going to have a seizure or has cancer, then why would it be so strange for a dog to be so highly sensitive to the sadness and raw emotion found in humans.
Posted in AAT Training, Training, Volunteering | Tagged alzheimer and hospice venues, dog and seizures, dog stress, getting a feel for the venue ahead of time, knowing your dog, sensitive dogs | Leave a Comment »
Animal Assisted Activity teams are trained initially to go to routine venues. This might be considered, by some as the beginner level for most teams. I believe that all experience in AAA training is GREAT experience, and the more training you have, the more equipped you and your dog will be when working together as a team. This is especially important when working with children and on your own at routine venues.
An Animal Assisted Activity therapy team would go to a routine venue, because it is NOT a documented visit by doctors or medical staff. Examples of a routine venue would be a reading program at a school or in a children’s library, a retirement facility, a grief program for children or adults, an adult daycare or a hospital where there is no patient therapy, only visitation.
Most newly graduated AAA therapy teams want to work in children’s hospitals, veterans hospitals or in reading programs with children. These settings are the current favorites.
Posted in Training | Tagged Animal Assisted Activity, children, hospitals, reading programs, routine venues, visitation | Leave a Comment »
It is imperative that you find a knowledgable, experienced AAA instructor, when you are looking for a trainer to teach you the basic skills in Animal Assisted Activity. This person should not only be a professional dog trainer but they should also have an Animal Assisted Activity dog that is currently registered or certified to work. This gives you the confidence that, the trainer is educated in therapy work and is working actively in the therapy community.
Granted not all dogs are meant to be therapy dogs. Nor are all trainers meant to train therapy dogs! When you take a therapy dog screening test for your dog and your dog has not been trained to do half of the questions on the test, then you know you have your work cut out for you. This does not mean your dog is not therapy dog material, this just means you need to do more basic training before you can take your dog to a therapy dog class. The skills for the working therapy dog are specific. Appropriate training reaps essential rewards. Do your homework!
A good source to locate trainers is the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
Posted in Therapy Dog Lessons, Training | Leave a Comment »
Once you have found the volunteer organization that will accept you AND your dog you need to find out whether or not they have training classes for you and your dog. Not all Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) Volunteer organizations train their canine volunteers. It is important to remember that the handler and the dog need to be trained as a therapy team together. This will strengthen your bond with your dog and give you the tools you need to be a quality team. If the organization you choose does not offer classes for teaching you and your dog therapy skills, look on the internet for AAA or therapy dog training classes. The classes are usually not long and only cover the basics that you as a team may encounter in a routine therapy environment. Nursing homes, retirement centers, children’s reading programs, hospitals where you are visiting patients, adult day care centers and grief counseling sessions would be examples of a routine environment.
If you are interested in working with patients and their ongoing medically documented therapy, your dog will in most cases, have to have advanced skills. Pet Partners, formerly the Delta Society, has more information regarding these complex settings. Pet Partners also offers a class for handlers that is full of important information for the aspiring therapeutic dog handler.
Posted in Training | Tagged Animal Assisted Activity, dog training, routine venues, Therapy Dog classes, volunteering | 2 Comments »
Sadly there are many therapy dog volunteer organizations that are breed specific. I find this disturbing. We live in a throw away society, where often animals that have become inconvenient or too big are given away or dumped at the nearest shelter. There should be no breed discrimination, period, when it comes to therapy dogs. A therapy dog should be able to be a mixed breed dog or a purebred, I am sure they all have a lot of love to share.
The dogs that I train for therapy work can be any breed, as long as they can pass an assessment test, have had basic obedience training, are predictable and have no history of bite, fighting or guard dog training. These breeds include, but are not limited to, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds and any other dog that has been ostracized in the past 100 years. It is sad that so many wonderful dogs that have such amazing stories of survival, courage and forgiveness are passed by as possible candidates for therapy work because of their breed.
Sounds like a HUMAN condition to me!
Posted in Training | Tagged breed specific, human, organizations, pets, pit bulls, shelters, society, therapy dogs, training, volunteering | Leave a Comment »