View Full Version : Any Therapy Dogs out there?

16th June 2009, 02:11 AM
I'm researching different organizations for Therapy Dogs, training and such. So far, I've come across Therapy Dogs Inc and Therapy Dogs International. Anyone out there have experience with volunteering with their pups? I'm not quite sure where to start.
I'm planning on getting Amber's Canine Good Citizen certificate as soon as I can get her to understand the 'heel' command and I can teach her to not jump up on people for hugs and kisses. Not sure how tough that will be! Every time she meets someone new and jumps up on them, I'll give her a 'down' command and the person will always say "That's OK!" and give her lots of love anyway. :rolleyes:
I just can't imagine not sharing her with people who could use a little more love and doggie cuddles. ;)

16th June 2009, 03:55 AM
Hi! Stella is certified thru Therapy Dogs International based in New Jersey. We volunteer about 3-4 times a month. We go to Nursing Homes, two Library branches for their "Tales for Tails" reading programs, various preschools and schools. She also makes various appearances at festivals and parades. In July, we are visiting the Special Needs Camp my daughter is working at in Indiana! Every year I need to re-certify her. The organization sends me papers in the mail and I need to have the vet sign new health papers and give proof (by signatures) that I have actually done volunteering with Stella. All this (accompanied by 35.00) is mailed by December 31 every year. In return, they send me a new Therapy Dog Tag for Stella to wear (she also has a vest with her name on it), a new bandanna and a new identification card with all of Stella's info. on it. Stella has been doing this for 4 years now. Dogs can actually earn "titles" with this organization, such as Therapy Dog International Active (this title says the dog has done at least 50 visits). There are more titles for more visits, but I don't remember what they all are called. All I know is that it is very rewarding! :luv:

16th June 2009, 06:44 AM
I grew up with therapy dogs. My mother is in the Charity League in Dallas, and our labs were commonly seen at Children's Medical Center. We were registered with Therapy Dogs International. GREAT GROUP.

Just keep on working on it. Anna is 16 weeks and I plan on having her ready the second she is age eligible.

16th June 2009, 03:52 PM
Thanks for the replies! I definately think Therapy Dogs International is the group we'll go with. And I'm glad to see that Children's Hospital in Dallas allows therapy dog visits... Amber *loves* children! I also have an aunt that works there, so she can help me get in touch with the right people after we've been registered. :)


16th June 2009, 07:56 PM
I understand that Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy with certify and help you with volunteer assignments. http://www.rainbowaat.org

Jane, Mom to Alex & Emma

16th June 2009, 09:50 PM
Thanks, Jane! Unfortunately, it looks like this group is local to the Chicago are only. :(


Cathy Moon
17th June 2009, 01:27 AM
My two female cavaliers were TDI certified, but I let their registrations expire because I had very little time for visits.

There is no special training for TDI dogs; mainly it is a temperament test with a few simple commands thrown in. I took the girls to be tested with no planning beforehand and they both passed with flying colors.

I found a hospital nearby that has its own canine visitation program - a hospital employee checks your dog before each visit - the dog must have vet papers showing immunizations and must be freshly groomed. Obviously this person must be qualified to do a temperament test. I'm going to see if I can take each of my girls there next week while I'm on vacation.

17th June 2009, 01:55 AM
Hi, Riley and I are a certified therapy team through St. Huberts which is a local animal welfare center. We have over 300 certified teams and close to 200 different locations where we visit. Each dog must be certified with a human. I am certified with Riley, my 2 yr old B&T boy and a 9 year old Golden Retriever, Rags. I took Rags with me when Riley was recovering from surgery. I had to be certified with Rags even though I already was certified with Riley.
The certification requires a 3 hour workshop for the humans and then a 20 min test with your dog. It is a temperament test as well as several obedience exercises. It is pretty intense, especially the temperament test. I trained Riley myself, haven taken him to a year of various obedience classes. He was certified when he was 1 &1/2 which is very young. He loves to "go to work" a few times each week. We work with special needs kids, and teens and adult psychiatric facilities. I am not to eager to do nursing homes so there are plenty of visits that we can do other than those.
Riley and I have such a strong bond partly because of our therapy work. He is a great source of comfort to many people. I love working with Riley in this way. It is truly doing God's work
Pat & Riley New Jersey

17th June 2009, 03:53 AM
I think I'll contact one of the TDI evaluators in my area and watch a test being performed. That will give me a better idea of whether or not Amber will need more training. She already knows how to sit, stay, come, lay down and stay from a distance. We're working on fetch and a few other fun tricks, but nothing really necessary for therapy work. Money is tight for us, so it would be nice to not have to spend $100 on training just to learn how to heel. I'm mostly concerned for her over-exuberance. She can pull pretty hard on her leash when she wants to! (Especially when it comes to seeing the birds at the pet store!)


17th June 2009, 02:48 PM
This is an article I wrote for the Bulletin for the Clumber Spaniel Club of America on Getting Started in Therapy work. Although written for Clumbers it equally applicable to Cavaliers:

Clumbers in therapy work
Phyllis M. Potterfield
CSCA Public Education Subcommittee*
April 2009

Looking for a way to spend quality time with your Clumber while helping others? Then consider becoming involved in pet or animal assisted therapy. There is nothing quite like the experience of bringing a smile to the faces of those who may not have a lot to smile about, showing people who may feel abandoned that someone cares and providing emotional, and sometimes physical, support to those in need. Sort of an expanded version of what our Clumbers do for many of us everyday!

“Therapy Dog” is not a term which has a fixed meaning. There are many different types of programs. Some are casual, others more formal. Some involve fairly basic training, for others the training is more intense. There are programs in which the dog simply accompanies its owner to a facility to visit with patients, students or residents, sometimes called “Visitation” programs, and programs in which the dog is used more actively by occupational, physical, speech and other therapists as a modality in a treatment plan, often referred to as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). You will need to check the definitions and qualifications used by the various organizations or programs in your community. Here, for ease of reference, we will just say “therapy dog.”

Before you get started, you need to ask whether your Clumber has the “right stuff” to be a therapy dog. Good therapy dog candidates are interested in and responsive to people; like to be loved and touched; are even-tempered; get along with other pets; and are well-behaved. That does not mean that all “therapy dogs” are equal; while some may be great with rambunctious children, others may prefer to sit calmly with an elderly nursing home resident. But they do all need to share a love of people and have good manners!

Examples of specific types of therapy work include:

Visits to a nursing home or a children’s hospital where the dog may play ball with a patient, do a few tricks or just sit and be petted (a specialty of many Clumbers).
Going to the library or school where children increase their reading skills and confidence level by reading out loud to a trained “reading” dog.
Working in a rehabilitation center where activities such as dog grooming, walking and even Frisbee throwing can be part of a plan to improve a patient’s coordination, strength or flexibility.
Bringing comfort to hospice patients and their families by making home visits with a trained hospice worker.
For most programs, your dog must be a minimum of one year old to participate. But it is never too early, or too late for that matter, to start preparing. If you think you might like to do therapy work with your Clumber, here are some steps to take:

Expose your puppy to a lots and lots of sights, sounds, people and places. Include rowdy kids, people wearing funny hats or costumes, sirens and church bells, wheelchairs and skate boards, excessive hand gestures and bright lights. All of this will build your Clumber’s confidence. If you are getting started with an older dog, test to see what may be problem areas and work on those individually.
Socialize your potential therapy dog with other dogs, teaching it that there are times to play and times for good manners when around other dogs.
Start obedience training early, but make it fun and a natural part of daily living with your dog. Consider participating in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program (www.akc.org/starpuppy/ (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.akc.org/starpuppy/)) designed to help get puppies and their owners off on the right foot. Having a good relationship and good communication will serve you well as you and your Clumber move on to learn the more specific skills needed to be a good therapy dog.
As part of obedience training, work on the skills which are part of the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. Often therapy dog programs use the ten skills included on the CGC test (e.g. accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely when petted, coming when called, reactions to other dogs, reactions to distractions, walking through a crowd, separation from owner) as the foundation for their own training. They then modify and add to those skills to qualify dogs for participation in their particular visitation or animal assisted therapy program. You can get a brochure and other information about Canine Good Citizens at www.akc.org/events/cgc/ (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/(www.akc.org/events/cgc/).
Learn about programs available in your community and decide which one might be right for you and your Clumber. Check with your local kennel club or humane society to see if they are aware of established programs at local hospitals, nursing homes, libraries or schools or may in fact have their own programs. If they can not help, check with facilities directly or do an internet search for “therapy dog” or “animal assisted therapy” groups which might service your area. Organizations with a more national presence include Therapy Dogs International, Inc. (www.tdi-dogs.org (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.tdi-dogs.org)), Therapy Dogs Inc. (www.therapydogs.com (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.therapydogs.com)) and the Delta Society (www.deltasociety.org (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.deltasociety.org)). Examples of local or regional groups include TherapyPets (www.therapypets.org (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.therapypets.org)) (California), Therapet Foundation (www.therapet.com (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.therapet.com)) (East Texas), The Good Dog Foundation (www.thegooddogfoundation.org (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.thegooddogfoundation.org)) (NYC area) and Therapy Dogs of Vermont (www.therapydogs.org (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.therapydogs.org)).
Try to visit with some of the programs in your area and perhaps “shadow” an experienced therapy dog and its handler without your Clumber to see if the program is one you would both enjoy.
Locate an instructor and evaluator in your area and sign up for classes. Although it is almost always better to attend classes in person, some programs do accommodate those who cannot locate classes near-by or cannot attend classes regularly by offering an on-line home version after which you and your dog will be evaluated in person by an approved evaluator.
An important point to remember, perhaps particularly so with Clumbers, is that dogs mature in their own time and have their own unique personalities. Some may be ready for formal work as a therapy dog when they are just over a year old but many will need to settle down a little and two, three or even four years old might be a better time to get serious about therapy dog training and work. But whenever you GET STARTED make it a fun and rewarding experience for you and for your dog.

Our Clumbers make us smile and laugh every day. Share that gift with others.
*Special thanks to Susan Field, Tammie Heisch, Pat McIlay and Barbara Stebbins, all of whom do therapy work with at least one of their Clumbers, for sharing their experiences and for their editorial assistance.

2009 Clumber Spaniel Club of America, Inc
www.clumbers.org (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/www.clumbers.org)

17th June 2009, 03:03 PM
Great article! Thank you!