One of the most frequently asked question from students taking our courses is, “What are the requirements to pass the test and become registered?”
Three concepts need to be understood to begin the journey of passing a test and becoming a registered dog therapy hander:
- First, qualifications vary widely by facility and setting. Your very first step in the process should be to call or visit the facility where you want to serve and find out from them what agency they use to register their handlers
- Second, contact the registering agency, of which there are many, and find out their requirements.
- Third, remember that there are “two ends of the leash” which means not only does your dog have to qualify but so do you!
As a volunteer dog handler, most organizations look for people that demonstrate these attributes:
- Display a relaxed, mature and confident personality and temperament
- Have a high degree of social skills when interacting with others
- Are reliable
- Are discrete when communicating with others
- Demonstrate strong verbal and nonverbal communication skills
- Are able to control their animal
- Have no signs of drug and alcohol addiction
With respect to canine qualifications, one component of a standard evaluation you will need to pass is the ability for your dog to demonstrate dog obedience, comprising the ability to perform the seven basic commands.
Usually for a minimal cost, you can find a dog trainer to help you pass the Canine Good Citizen test so that your dog can pass the seven basic commands. The AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title. Dogs with the CGC title have the suffix, “CGC” after their names.
Another helpful resource that will help you determine if your dog has what it takes is presented by Independent Therapy Dogs, Incorporated, a California non-profit. Click on the following link: What Makes For A Good Therapy Dog?
Common dog attributes that many facilities require (especially hospitals) include, but not limited to, the following
- At least One Year Of Age
- No Raw Meat Diets
- Clean and Well Groomed
- Pass Fecal Test
- Up to Date Vaccinations
- Yearly Medical Examinations
- Generally Healthy
What Breeds Qualify?
Almost any type of dog breed will qualify including mixed or pedigreed and one year or older. Generally, and any size of dog will do..
However, many facilities have breed prejudice for German Shepherds and Pit Bulls (not allowed) because of public’s perception of these breeds being aggressive. True or not, the facility sets the rules not the agency that qualifies you and your dog. Check with facility you want to serve.
Will You and Your Dog Pass the Test?
One of the most useful ways to get a quick education on what it takes to qualify is to invest about 30 minutes of your time looking at videos of simulated evaluations. Here is one, of many worth watching:
When viewing a sample dog/handler evaluation sample, pay attention not only to the dog but the behavior of the potential handler and their skills in communicating and controlling the dog.
To learn more about whether you and your dog may be qualified to become a qualified therapy dog, consider enrolling in one of the upcoming community college class, entitled Rudy on Rounds: How to Become a Certified Dog Therapy Handler.
This class will give you the opportunity to find out if dog therapy service is right for you and your dog before investing your time and money; learn the most efficient, least cost and quickest way for you and your dog to become a pet therapy team; gain an insider’s understanding into the types of facilities where you and your dog may qualify; and, receive a list of facilities in your area looking for handlers.
Click here for dates, times and community college class locations.