Therapy dogs provide a great service, but are not the same as a service dog. Therapy dogs provide socialization and comfort to hospital patients, nursing home clients and developmentally challenged and disabled children and adults. They do not perform a specific physical task for the person they are visiting. If you want to do therapy work with your dog, consider his personality and see if he is a fit with these requirements.
1. How does your dog approach a stranger; Is your dog happy to come to you or someone else when called?
2. Is your dog gentle in his greeting? Is your dog over-boisterous in greeting people or other animals, for example jumping up on people? (Jumping is not good; sitting for petting is excellent)
3. Does your dog show any signs of nervousness or aggression towards other animals or people?
4. Is your dog calm when touched and stroked?
5. How does your dog react to loud noise or sudden movement like a crutch dropped? How does your dog react to a wheel chair coming by? Does your dog react to a person using a walker? After the initial noise does your dog re-approach when asked?
6. Will your dog let its ears, tail or legs be touched?
7. Does your dog sit and wait when instructed?
8. Does your dog gently take treats from a stranger’s hand?
9. In general does your dog appear to be relaxed in strange and new environments?
Therapy dogs must past the Canine Good Citizen Testing.
DEMONSTRATING CONFIDENCE AND CONTROL, THE DOG MUST COMPLETE THESE 15 STEPS OF THE AKC/CGC TEST® AND THE ADDITIONAL TDI (therapy Dog International) REQUIREMENTS.
(Note: At check-in, before beginning Test 1, the owner must present a current rabies certificate and any other state or locally required inoculation certificates and licenses.)
TEST 1: ACCEPTING A FRIENDLY STRANGER
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The Evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the Evaluator.
TEST 2: SITTING POLITELY FOR PETTING
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. The dog should sit at the handler’s side as the Evaluator approaches and begins to pet the dog on the head and body only. The dog may stand in place to accept petting. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.
TEST 3: APPEARANCE AND GROOMING
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit a stranger, such as a veterinarian, groomer, or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern, and sense of responsibility. The Evaluator inspects the dog, then combs or brushes the dog, and lightly examines the ears and each front foot.
TEST 4: OUT FOR A WALK (WALKING ON A LOOSE LEASH)
This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog can be on either side of the handler, whichever the handler prefers. There must be a left turn, a right turn, and an about turn, with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops.
TEST 5: WALKING THROUGH A CROWD
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers, without appearing overexuberant, shy, or resentful. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not be straining at the leash.
TEST 6: SIT AND DOWN ON COMMAND/STAYING IN PLACE
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s command to sit and down, and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to make the dog sit and then down. When instructed by the Evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of a 20-foot line. The dog must remain in place, but may change position.
TEST 7: COMING WHEN CALLED
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell the dog to “stay” or “wait,” or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog as the Evaluator provides mild distraction (e.g., petting).
TEST 8: REACTION TO ANOTHER DOG
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 10 yards, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 5 yards. The dogs should show no more than a casual interest in each other.
TEST 9: REACTIONS TO DISTRACTIONS
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations, such as the dropping of a large book or a jogger running in front of the dog. The dog may express a natural interest and curiosity and/or appear slightly startled, but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.
TEST 10: REACTION TO MEDICAL EQUIPMENT
The dog must be tested around medical equipment (such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers, or other devices which would ordinarily be found in a facility) to judge the dog’s reactions to common health care equipment.
TEST 11: LEAVE-IT
The handler with the dog on a loose leash walks past food on the ground (placed within a distance of three feet) and, upon command, the dog should ignore the food.
TEST 12: ACCLIMATION TO INFIRMITIES
This test demonstrates the dog’s confidence when exposed to people walking with an uneven gait, shuffling, breathing heavily, coughing, wheezing, or other distractions which may be encountered in a facility.
TEST 13: SUPERVISED SEPARATION
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain its training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.
TEST 14: SAY HELLO
The TDI Certified Evaluator will test the willingness of each dog to visit a person and that the dog can be made readily accessible for petting (i.e., small dogs can be placed on a person’s lap or can be held; medium and larger dogs can sit on a chair or stand close to the patient to be easily reached.)
TEST 15: REACTION TO CHILDREN
The dog must be able to work well around all types of populations, including children. The dog’s behavior around children must be evaluated during testing. It is important that during the testing the potential Therapy Dog and the children are not in direct contact. This means the dog can only be observed for a reaction toward children playing, running, or present in general at the testing site. Any negative reaction by the dog will result in automatic failure. Negative reaction means a dog showing signs of aggression.