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therapy dog..???

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therapy dog..???
  • I'm located in the NYC area.. my sister suffers from a terminal disease (cystic fibrosis - to learn more, go to www.cff.org), shes frequently in and out of the hospital (sometimes shes in the hospital 8-10 times a year, for a few weeks at a time).  Does anyone know how i would go about training my dogs to become therapy dogs? .. i'd love to be able to bring the dogs into the hospital to see her, shes crazy about the dogs, and i don't think anything would make her happier than to have them visit her in the hospital. - and i'd LOVE to be able to bring them into other wards of the hospital..(pediatics, cancer centers, etc..), i'm a HUGE believer that dogs can do marvelous things for peoples health, and if we can put smiles on the faces of people who are in the unhappiest place in the world, that would be amazing.

    i'm curious to know about how to go about starting the process, how much it costs, what kind of paperwork needs to be filed.. all the good details. lol ... is there anyone on here, located in the nyc area who trains dogs to be therapy dogs??

    thanks SO much! :)

    Erin (and coco & teddie!)

  • I think the first step would be to find out what the hospital requires. For example, in town here we have a large chidren's hospital, and they only allow therapy dogs certified through Delta Society. Other places require TDI or TDInc, and some even require that you are a member of our local therapy group.

    Then I would find some class or training program that can give the dogs the right exposure. Hospital environments have a lot of sounds and smells that humans might not notice but can stress a dog, so it's important to find a program that will desensitize the dog to this environment and make it a happy place. I took therapy training with our local group and early on they sent us home with a bag filled with tons of things from a hospital so we could help the dogs get used to these smells. Some of the training took place in a hospital.

  • It's very kind that you'd like to cheer your sister up! I've always been very, very interested in therapy dogs as well, especially reading assistance dogs (I'm an elem ed major!). But, it's important to consider the personalities of Coco and Teddie. I think you've recently adopted them, correct? From a mill-type situation? If I were you, I'd focus on basic training, separately, for a good while, so that you can get a real sense of their personalities as they become more comfortable with you and their new lives. And if after a while, one or the other, or both, seemed like they'd enjoy therapy work, you would have a solid foundation to begin training for therapy work...and if not, you'd just have two happy, well trained dogs :)
  • Once they settled into a 'normal' life with us, they took to our training pretty well ... not formal training, but we worked really hard with them to get the basic commands down pat ... they both know 'sit', 'stay', 'get down' (if they're jumping on us), 'drop it', 'go in your bed' and teddie has recently picked up on 'can i have your paw?' (when he gives his paw..he gets REALLY proud of himself for doing it, then gives you the other one, then tries to give you both at the same time lol..dopey guy).

    the reason i think they'd be good therapy dogs, is because when i bring them over to my mom's house while katy's doing her daily treatments (which consist of us pounding on katy's back for 4 minutes, then chest for 8 minutes, LOUD coughing, and even louder machines) teddie lays in her lap and takes his afternoon nap, while coco sits next to her, and gives her kisses on the hands and arms when she can sense katys having a hard time.

    considering where they were when we got them, and where they are now ... they're like two totally different dogs.

  • Why don't you send spiritdog (Anne) a pm. She can probably steer you to a TD class in your area.  Good luck and I hope you can get them certified.  It's wonderful that they are so sweet and calm when she is getting her treatments.  A large part of TD class is introducing the dog to the sounds and sights of a hospital type setting.  It's also to teach you how to keep your dog safe in those settings.

  • Some places do *not* require a dog be certified at all -- it all depends on the facility.  Some place the emphasis on the health of the handlers (that's you), and some on the animals.

     Liesje's suggestion to find out what that hospital prefers is a good one, altho I hope Delta isn' the *only* one they accept (that would be pretty rare).  Of all the organizations I've worked with Delta has been, by far, the most difficult.

    My first therapy dogs were all certified thru Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. -- they are NY based (June is MARVELOUS to work with) -- they have classes and really help you thru the entire process.  

    MOST groups require you to be volunteering somewhere to begin with.  So aside from the facility where your sister goes, find out from the local CF organization if they have meetings you might be able to visit, or if they already work with a particular group. 

    Nursing homes are a great place to start and usually don't require certification. 

    It sounds like a conundrum to be already "working" somewhere and NOT be certified but to have "working" as a requirement in order to LEARN to be certified.  Essentially they want you to get in the habit of knowing what volunteering is like, what's expected, how to deal with people, etc.  It's a learning curve.

    TDI and TD, Inc. are similar (TD, Inc is an off-shoot of TDI) -- and like most any of the organizations they want your dog to have it's CGC  *first* to begin the program.   If you go to the http://www.akc.org website and look for the "Canine Good Citizen" program -- that tells you what the CGC is, and what behaviors are required to pass it.  It's not hard -- but it is specific.  Things like sit, stay, be ok with handling like brushing, touching mouth & feet, walking on a loose leash, a short "stay" (while the owner walks 20 feet away turns and *returns* to the dog without the dog breaking the stay), a longer "stay" while the owner goes out of sight (the dog doesn't have to hold position but has to exhibit ho signs of separation anxiety and be generally at ease with the temporary handler), greeting a friendly stranger, greeting a stranger with a dog.

    Where to get the CGC?  Many of these organizations can facilitate that -- and so can AKC events (they often actually have CGC testing at AKC events).

    Some of the therapy dog organizations (like B&B, TDI, TD, Inc.) actually use the CGC basic test as a starting point for THEIR test and add things like distractions that a dog would find in a hospital -- like clanging bedpans, wheelchairs, walkers, etc.

    Feel free to click "contact"  at the top of the thread and email me if I can help you.  I've been doing therapy dog stuff for about 35 years (long before it was *called* "therapy dog" or "pet assisted therapy" or whatever the term du jour is). 

    Tink and Luna both volunteer currently at Give Kids the World but are both working ON their CGC presently.  Luna's close ... Tink's .... *grin* working on it!! (danged fairy dust -- keeps making her want to zoom thru the air!! LOL).

    What's the advantage of certification if you don't HAVE to have it to go to certain places?  INSURANCE.

    Most of your therapy dog groups provide liability coverage of up to several million dollars in case something dire happens while you have the animal in a facility.

    It isn't common but it can happen.  Remember -- when you do pet therapy you are reacting with the PUBLIC.  It's not JUST for family members.  And even IF you were just visiting your sister -- what if someone's ill-mannered child "sees the DOGGIE" and bursts into the room, RACES up to your dog and hurts it.  Dog snarls and child screams and hits its head on some nearby piece of furniture.

    Uh oh ....

    Rare, but it CAN happen.  So the liaiblity insurance is often simply a wise thing. 

    Feel free to holler -- it is a GOOD thing and it is completely addictive.  My husband and I do pet therapy **together** and we LOVE it.  We've planned vacations around it even -- but mostly it's just something we enjoy doing together for the joy of helping others. 

    I've used several

  • sl2crmeg
    It's very kind that you'd like to cheer your sister up! I've always been very, very interested in therapy dogs as well, especially reading assistance dogs (I'm an elem ed major!). But, it's important to consider the personalities of Coco and Teddie. I think you've recently adopted them, correct? From a mill-type situation? If I were you, I'd focus on basic training, separately, for a good while, so that you can get a real sense of their personalities as they become more comfortable with you and their new lives. And if after a while, one or the other, or both, seemed like they'd enjoy therapy work, you would have a solid foundation to begin training for therapy work...and if not, you'd just have two happy, well trained dogs :)


    Great point. I was just checking the FAQ on our local therapy group's page and they require that the dogs have lived with the handler for at least six months before they can begin training.

    Callie, yes our children's hospital exclusively requires Delta certification. Therapy work has become somewhat of a fad around here, we see too many dogs that really aren't interested or just don't have the right temperament or training, and clueless handlers. Certain programs have pretty high standards but I don't feel that's a bad thing. I see that the group I originally trained with now requires an obedience test before you can enter the training program, then they test again for more skills at the end of the training program, and test every two years (there have been dogs who were trained to pass originally but as time went on it was clear that the dogs were not under control).
  • calliecritturs
    Of all the organizations I've worked with Delta has been, by far, the most difficult.

     

    When I was looking for a class I was told to avoid Delta because of all the drama.  I thought it was a local problem but apparently it's more than just here.  I've met a few of the Delta people here and they seemed very encouraging and nice but I didn't end up going thru their program because too many people warned me away.  I went thru a different local group.  Sorry, a bit off topic but I've seen this mentioned before and wondered about it often.  The point about the insurance is HUGE and shouldn't be taken lightly. 

  • Therapy work has become somewhat of a fad around here, we see too many dogs that really aren't interested or just don't have the right temperament or training, and clueless handlers.I registered my dogs with Therapy Dogs, Inc. and became a tester/observer for them because they have been friendly and easy to deal with, helpful, and not off-putting.  There is no drama!   Their test is fair and realistic - and the dogs I've passed are now working in hospital cancer wards, adult day centers, mental health units, reading to rover programs.  My own dog, Sioux (in my avatar), not only visits, she acts as the ambassador for all therapy dogs by visiting administrators and others who make decisions about whether to begin therapy dog programs.  She has never failed to make them her friends;-)

    The place to start is by training your dog at least to the standard of the AKC Canine Good Citizen test - that insures that your dog has basic manners and is non-aggressive when meeting people and other dogs.  Then, take a look at the TDInc. web page and their test requirements, as they are slightly different.  You can take a class if you can find one, but you do not need to do that in order to take either test.  Insurance is important, and TDInc. has a $5mil liability policy.

    Therapy work has become somewhat of a fad around here, we see too many dogs that really aren't interested or just don't have the right temperament or training, and clueless handlers.

    The testers are at fault for that, as they shouldn't be passing dogs that aren't qualified to do the work.  That isn't an indication that other therapy dog groups are not as good as Delta - but I, too, have occasionally noticed a certain snobbery about their members sometimes.  I've seen dogs that passed their testing who aren't interested, either, once the team is out in the real world. 

    Believe it or not, dogs have preferences regarding the populations they prefer to work with.  My Sioux will work with anyone, but she *loves* elders.  Give my hound a bunch of kids hugging on him and rubbing his ears, he's in heaven.  We tell handlers how read their dogs, and why certain obedience issues are important, so most of them actually realize, by the end of class, whether to stop with the CGC or go for the therapy dog testing, too.

  • spiritdogs
    Believe it or not, dogs have preferences regarding the populations they prefer to work with. 

    They absolutely do!  Nikki truly likes everyone, but Honor is AMAZING around kids, and Eli definitely prefers adults!  So my husband and I take them in pairs, and I'm dearly hoping Nike will be ready to go for his own CGC/TDI in March, so he can join us!

    I've had really good experiences with Therapy Dogs International.  They were very helpful giving me a list of facilities they already knew accepted TDI dogs, and have found their testing to be fair.  None of my dogs took any classes for CGC/TDI, but I downloaded the testing brochure so we could practice the requirements.  Before making the decision to go for the TDI with each of them, we visited local outdoor malls and stores so I could see if the dogs were genuinely enjoying themselves in large groups of people.  When it became obvious they were, it was a natural decision to go for the TDI and see what happened!

  • spiritdogs

    Therapy work has become somewhat of a fad around here, we see too many dogs that really aren't interested or just don't have the right temperament or training, and clueless handlers.

    The testers are at fault for that, as they shouldn't be passing dogs that aren't qualified to do the work.  That isn't an indication that other therapy dog groups are not as good as Delta - but I, too, have occasionally noticed a certain snobbery about their members sometimes.  I've seen dogs that passed their testing who aren't interested, either, once the team is out in the real world.

     

    I'm not trying to defend Delta, I've never done anything with them (or any group, other than training and testing, which we really used as just another chance to proof basic obedience since Kenya has no desire to to therapy work and Nikon is automatically DQ'd).  The testers that test for our local group *are* Delta testers and that's the test they use, so they aren't trying to put one above the other, they are basically one in the same.  I'm not sure why the hospital requires Delta, but that's the way it is, so the OP would want to check around where she intends to bring her dogs and see if they require a certain test/insurance policy or be prepared to change/fight it.

  • Liesje
    Therapy work has become somewhat of a fad around here, we see too many dogs that really aren't interested or just don't have the right temperament or training, and clueless handlers. Certain programs have pretty high standards but I don't feel that's a bad thing.

    (EMPHASIS CALLIE'S)

    aarugh -- I lost everything I typed for 15 minutes grrrrr

    I totally understand what Lies is saying and she's absolutely right on several counts (in no particular order or ranking).

    1. Unfortunately, as the number of places you can "go" with your dog decrease and the more rules and regulations we're all confronted with, people tend to seek things they can "do" with their dogs.

    ALSO -- at the same time, other people are seeking social outlets -- and honestly, NOT real volunteerism spirit, but rather groups of other like-minded singles, activity groups, sometimes church groups, etc. -- but people looking for a social thing to do and taking your dog to someplace **with a social group attached** (sometimes coffee afterwards, etc.) is very attractive -- often to the WRONG folks.

    This attracts people AND dogs that don't have any kind of real heart for what pet therapy **should** be about.

    Liesje
    I'm not sure why the hospital requires Delta, but that's the way it is, so the OP would want to check around where she intends to bring her dogs and see if they require a certain test/insurance policy or be prepared to change/fight it.

    2. Often hospitals, medical facilities (both for kids and adults, and the full gamut of basis of operation) have to be CONVINCED to try pet therapy.

    There can be a pervasive assumption (some religions, some ethnic groups, and some folks just plain are NOT dog/animal people) that dogs are "dirty" or just plain should be "outside". And in ANY sort of heavy-duty medical environment there is also a huge concern about potential allergens, pet dander, and general "diseases" pets are supposed to somehow carry.

    Many, many facilities are completely CLOSED to pet therapy. And often it is one particular group who will literally make it their mission to try to get into certain facilities.

    Once these groups have done a ton of ground work it's not uncommon to see that facility ONLY allow *that* group to come in. Often simply because there was one particular point that was a "sticking point" that somehow THAT group was able to prove themselves on -- so a kind of 'trust' was formed so the hospital (and usually this is a "committee decision") will say "ONLY ABC Organization may bring animals in that satisfy their X-point criteria!"

    Delta is nationally known and is one of the first "big" certifying agencies.

    3. Geography somehow plays a large part here -- and I think this is just due to how something like pet therapy 'spreads' -- someone who did pet therapy with ABC group in Philadelphia re-locates to San Jose and then looks for an ABC group there -- and when none was there they set about to form one because it was familiar to them.

    HOWEVER< at the same time that tends to make some areas "different".

    I'm not going to condemn Delta as a whole because I know it is a very good organization and they strive to be very consistent (hence they have this huge training program and they really don't want ANY dogs/handlers in their organization who haven't gone thru THEIR program -- which tends to be ***extremely *** expensive for many folks.). But they ARE endeavoring to be consistent.

    BUT ... once again, because it IS national and they have these well known training programs that you can simply pay for and sign up -- they're attractive to people looking for a little more training and something to do with other like-minded people.

    Here in the Orlando area (and I know my own opinion isn't alone because I've compared notes with a lot of people on this) Delta tends to be a lot of single folks looking for a 'singles group' type of thing to do.

    When I inquired into it several years ago I was flatly told that *I* wasn't going to be "happy" with Delta because I'm not mobile enough. She told me baldly that "When we take a group into the hospital we see 240 children/people in two hours with a team of 5-6. I doubt you would be able to KEEP UP with us!" (caps mine).

    TO *ME* that's not pet therapy -- that's a marathon! That's just sheer numbers. I got ticked off and pressed her further. The dog I wanted to get certified was deaf (he had no ears) and he used touch sign (how do you get a deaf dog's attention when he's faced away from you???) but he was already doing a ton of therapy dog work with children and seniors.

    Nope -- they wouldn't take HIM because they don't allow touch signs -- not even for deaf or deaf/blind dogs.

    She flatly told me that their dogs/handlers were all able-bodied because they "set quite a pace".

    Like I said -- to me that's not pet therapy. I told her so and moved on.

    What exists here has allowed TDI And TD, Inc. to flourish. Back when I got Muffin certified, there wasn't a TDI group, nor TD, Inc. group that I could find TO certify him so I went thru Bright and Beautiful out of New York City (this was soon after 9-11 and I got to know June during some research I did then).

    4. There is now kind of a knee-jerk reaction taking place, which I honestly think is good. There are groups here that are simply saying "NO, this is NOT how pet therapy should be, and just plopping insurance on someone does not make it 'safe' or satisfactory"

    So they are testing HARDER -- they are requiring more, and making sure that in the interests of "promoting pet therapy" that the wrong animals and handlers aren't getting certified. This can be good -- ... this can also be .... over-done. But I think it's necessary.

    In fact, one of the reasons why we've begun with this new trainer is exactly for that reason.

    Pet therapy should be between the ANIMAL and the PATIENT. It's not ME dropping by to have my dog "entertain" someone. That's done ... but it's more entertainment than pet therapy. Pet therapy is about a bond created between the animal and the patient. Creating peace and harmony in the patient, or actually ministering to needs they have that are met by the interaction with the animal.

    ME? I'm there to make sure it stays safe. To make darned sure my dog isn't too tired ... to make sure my dog is covered in case the human does something odd or dangerous (like inadvertnetly hurting the dog by grabbing too tightly or striking out suddenly - and yeah, it can happen!!), or to make sure the dog doesn't inadvertently injure the human (a paw stepping on fragile skin, a playful lunge ofsetting someone's balance, or 9999 other potential problems).

    In another thread about pet therapy I mentioned that one of our criteria (David and I) is not to let the dog get too tired -- because even an hour CAN be **very** tiring.

    And someone posted incredulous that my dog would "tire" after an hour and that I must be doing something WRONG (or that the animal isn't fit to do pet therapy).

    WRONG WRONG WRONG -- pet therapy is emotionally draining. When an animal visits a sick human being -- they can often absorb those emotions and sort of walk away with it. It's part and parcel of how emphathetic dogs are -- and how much they WANT to give that unconditional love to everyone they meet.

    For some folks that pet therapy where their animals simply 'perform' or they just march thru a facility with many folks taking 5 seconds to pat Poochie -- I suppose it may be different. But for most dogs, spending time with critically ill people -- or with elderly people who really need love, assurance, or folks who may exhibit some forms of dementia or alzheimer's -- that is EXHAUSTING and you have to respect your dog and be **VERY** protective of that animal's well being.

    One whiff that one of my dogs is fatigued and we stop. And it's a learning thing to notice that and watch for it.

    One of the things we discussed with the trainer last weekend was this VERY thing. And probably the biggest thing that David and I both decided we LIKED about this woman was her very insistence that one of her highest priorities in therapy dog work is to ensure that the animals aren't allowed to get too tired and she NEVER allows prolonged visits (particularly not outside because the heat here can be SO tiring). But her insistence that one of her emphasis points in teaching pet therapy IS **watch your dog ALL the time** for fatigue.

    That's just one of my little hot buttons, but SpiritDogs and Liesje are exactly right in their cautions above. Pet therapy is wonderful - but it is also quite a commitment. And if you go on to actually BE certified, it is a commitment. But it can be the most rewarding thing you ever experience as well.

  • My take on the three groups registering dogs in my area:

    I evaluate for Delta.  I also don't hide the fact that I think their test is the gold standard for teams - or at least it is with evaluators who follow the rules and guidelines they were taught.  I've met very few Delta teams that are in it for the title or socialization myself because the test *is* so difficult.  At least in my area Delta teams often visit singly (there's no affiliate group here) whereas the TDI and TDInc people often do group visits. 

    One of the reasons I've always been a fan of Delta is that they require re-evals every two years *and* that the handler complete a specific training course (home study or in person with a trained instructor).

    (psst Callie - as I've said before, the "no touch signs" thing is NOT Delta, it's apparently the local group that had that stupid rule)

    I've recently been much more pleased with the TDInc. testers around here and am happy to recommend their program with the right tester.  I especially like the requirement of supervised visits before full registration is granted!

    TDI seems to be getting really snotty about their teams participating with teams registered with other orgs - we've had people disallowed from joining our local (TDI, TDInc, Delta welcome) group because they'd be visiting with non-TDI teams!

  • As I said I wasn't knocking any one group and I *hope* I said that was just my experience *here* with Delta.  You don't get to BE the most widely known and recognized group without being pretty darned good.

    We humans are notorious for not dealing well with each other and getting ticked off and going to create a splinter group so we can do it a "different" way.  .

    But I also don't want the original poster's question to get lost here either -- everyone's got to start someplace just to figure out IF they really **DO** want to do pet therapy.

  • Liesje

    spiritdogs

    Therapy work has become somewhat of a fad around here, we see too many dogs that really aren't interested or just don't have the right temperament or training, and clueless handlers.

    The testers are at fault for that, as they shouldn't be passing dogs that aren't qualified to do the work.  That isn't an indication that other therapy dog groups are not as good as Delta - but I, too, have occasionally noticed a certain snobbery about their members sometimes.  I've seen dogs that passed their testing who aren't interested, either, once the team is out in the real world.

     

    I'm not trying to defend Delta, I've never done anything with them (or any group, other than training and testing, which we really used as just another chance to proof basic obedience since Kenya has no desire to to therapy work and Nikon is automatically DQ'd).  The testers that test for our local group *are* Delta testers and that's the test they use, so they aren't trying to put one above the other, they are basically one in the same.  I'm not sure why the hospital requires Delta, but that's the way it is, so the OP would want to check around where she intends to bring her dogs and see if they require a certain test/insurance policy or be prepared to change/fight it.

     

    I find that the reason some hospitals want Delta is that someone from Delta has managed to convince them that their testing is somehow more rigorous or "better".  In our immediate area, fortunately, the way most administrators were introduced to pet therapy was directly as a result of my program's outreach with Sioux as a little ambassador, so they were first exposed to a dog that was trained and registered from another program.  (No, T/O's cannot test their own dogs, so Sioux was independently evaluated by another T/O)   Part of that outreach is information about the various programs, and what to require of the dogs that visit them. 

    Why is Nikon d/q'd "automatically"???