What does it take to become a Good Dog team?
To become a Good Dog team, a dog and handler pair must first have interest in the world of animal-assisted therapy and making a difference in the lives of those in need. The dog must be at least four months old to begin Therapy I, and the handler needs only to have a desire and availability for volunteering with one or more of our facilities or programs.
To become certified as a Good Dog team, the dog must first undergo a pre-screening, so that our trainer can make sure he/she is suitable for classes. To schedule a pre-screening, please refer to the form below. After pre-screening, your team enrolls in classes. The therapy certification class consists of an eleven-session program split into two classes:Therapy I and Therapy II. In limited circumstances, dogs may be able to go directly into Therapy II classes. Using positive reinforcement only, our expert, highly-skilled trainers work with dogs and handlers to operate successfully as an animal-assisted therapy team. A class participation fee covers all expenses involved in becoming a Good Dog team. After you and your dog are certified, our staff and trainers will assist you in coordinating visits to the nearly 320 facilities we serve. You will be covered by insurance on all official Good Dog visits.
Steps to Becoming a Good Dog Team
In order to ensure that your dog is ready to participate in therapy class setting, we require a brief pre-screening session. We want all our dogs to succeed and to get the most out of our exclusive training program. Therefore, we must make sure they are ready to enroll in classes. During a pre-screening session, a certified Good Dog trainer will observe your dog’s temperament, energy level, sociability with humans and other dogs, and relationship with its handler. After the evaluation, our trainer will make a class registration recommendation for your team.
Therapy I Class
Before becoming a certified therapy animal, it is important that your dog master basic commands. During Good Dog Therapy I class, the handler and dog will learn to work together to master our required obedience skills as well as be given an introduction to therapy work.
It is important to remember that both the dog and handler participate in the training. The handler must demonstrate control over his or her dog at all times. Once Therapy I has been completed, your team will be evaluated before moving onto the Therapy II class.
Therapy II Class
After mastering obedience skills and receiving an introduction to therapy work, your dog begins intensive training to become a therapy dog. This training teaches the dog and handler how to operate in therapy environments, such as hospitals and schools by simulating these environments.
Therapy II includes an education in therapy skills as well as protocol, policy and procedure. Dogs learn to tolerate human behaviors they might encounter with ease and how to respond to unsettling situations and unfamiliar sights and sounds.
Once you and your dog have successfully completed the Therapy I and II training classes, your veterinarian must clear your dog for work. This includes a medical and vaccination history and an assessment of your dog by your own veterinarian. Once you complete the veterinary exam and training classes, you and your dog will be certified to work as a Good Dog Team. During your initial visits, you will be accompanied by a Good Dog trainer or staff member to your chosen Good Dog partner facility. The trainer guides you through your first therapy sessions. This ensures that your team is comfortable and ready to operate on your own in a therapy environment.
Good Dog re-certifies its therapy teams on an annual basis in order to provide consistent and up-to-date care to all our patients. To be re-certified, Good Dog teams will be re-evaluated on therapy skills and temperament by a trainer.
Things to Consider
Good Dog welcomes all interested in becoming an animal-assisted therapy team through our exclusive training program. However, it is important to consider a few things about your team before initiating the learning process. If your dog displays the following behaviors, he/she may not yet be suitable for therapy work:
- Aggression toward humans
- Aggression toward dogs or other animals
- Marked signs of fearfulness or shyness
- Lack of house-training skills
- Uncontrollable hyper-activity (excessive barking, jumping, licking, pawing, etc.)
- Medical concerns (advanced age, fatigue, stiffness, excessive panting, signs of discomfort, etc.)
It is also important to remember the dog is only half of a Good Dog team. We know our handlers love and respect their animals. However, it is important to remember a few things. The handler must be willing and available for training and volunteering. The handler also must not display any of the following behaviors:
- Rough or abusive handling of the dog
- Unwillingness to follow The Good Dog Foundation training schedule
- Unwillingness to follow policies of facilities
Good Dog welcomes all volunteers to participate in our exclusive training program, beginning with our pre-screening session. We invite you to contact us to learn more, send in a pre-screening form for an appointment, or observe our work. We want to help you become a part of the powerful world of animal-assisted therapy because our goal is to help and heal using Good Dogs. We look forward to hearing from you and to meeting your good dog very soon!