Therapy Dog Testing
Therapy dog groups are non-profit volunteer groups organized to provide qualified dogs and handlers for visitations to institutions and facilities where therapy dogs are needed. The primary objective of a therapy dog and handler is to provide comfort and companionship by sharing the dog’s presence with patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions. These visits increase emotional well being, promote healing, and improve the quality of life for the people being visited and the staff who care for them.
Regular visits from therapy dogs and their handlers provide stimulation for conversation in mental health counseling and can encourage interest in physical therapy. Therapy dogs elevate the mood of the facility in general and specifically with the staff and residents. These dogs rekindle memories of past pets, and provide a never ending supply of love and affection for those who enjoy touching a furry head or feeling a cold nose.
Therapy dogs have proven to be extremely beneficial in school settings where children who have reading disabilities read to the dogs. The dogs don’t criticize or make the children feel uncomfortable if they make a mistake. From my own personal experience, there is nothing more rewarding than having a child who, in the past did not like to read, ask if he could read a second book to your dog! Therapy dogs are even welcome in the college environment where they have proven to be a stress reducer during exams.
Because dogs are non-judgmental and open with their affection, they can often touch something in a person who is otherwise uncommunicative. Therapy dogs are real dogs – some with fancy pedigrees and titles, some who have been adopted from the local shelter. All are very proud of their jobs as canine ambassadors.
Therapy dog memberships are open to purebred and mixed breed dogs. Dogs must be a minimum of 1 year old to test. Testing is done by a certified evaluator and the standards are quite high. While many dogs provide love and companionship in the home, not all have the temperament to be a therapy dog where they are often in unfamiliar facilities and sometimes in stressful situations.
Training a dog to be a therapy dog is an extremely rewarding goal for a handler. It takes time and patience to introduce the dog to the many new experiences that may be encountered on visits to institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes and day care facilities. Using the Canine Good Citizen test requirements as a foundation, Hope Lock Kennels introduces the additional requirements for therapy dogs in its Advanced classes. Dogs are worked around medical equipment and put into situations similar to what they may experience on visits. Only those dogs who show themselves to be comfortable and confident in all experiences are recommended for testing. Testing by a certified evaluator is offered to Hope Lock clients at scheduled times.