I am an evaluator for Therapy Dogs International. If you check the TDI test requirements and determine that you're ready for your dog to be evaluated, you can contact me to set up a test date in the Santa Barbara area. Therapy Dogs International requires three weeks' notice for test dates, so plan well in advance. They need to notify their insurance company and put the information on their website.
Pay special attention to the new requirements of Therapy Dogs International. They changed in December 2012. There are two Leave-It tests, one where a patient offers your dog food (which it must refuse) and one where food is dropped on the ground (which it must ignore upon command). This is a change from earilier versions of the testing.
The new TDI test now more closely simulates what you might encounter as you register to visit with a therapy dog.
Cost of testing is $10, five of which goes to TDI. Cost of annual registration with TDI is $45. Testing takes about 90 minutes, and teams who pass are given paperwork for veterinary clearances and TDI registration. Dogs need to be at least one year of age, and testing must be done in a flat buckle collar or harness with no tightening mechanism. No food, treats or toys may be used during testing.
Love on a Leash and Delta Society have evaluators in the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara areas, and you can contact them for information about testing, training, and mentoring procedures.
Many wonderful pets are not necessarily suitable for therapy dog work. They're still fabulous pets who bring comfort and joy to their owners. Therapy dog work requires an exceptionally outgoing temperament and can be exhausting for the dog. Be sure to honestly appraise your dog's disposition as you explore therapy dog volunteer options.
Therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are bred for the job, and some come from shelters. Some are rehomes engaged in a new purpose. They vary in style and energy, and there is no one particular type. One may be stoic, calm, and humorous. Another may be exuberant and outgoing. They may be fuzzy, soft, and portable, or they may be muscular and athletic.
In Santa Barbara, therapy dogs visit hospitals and rehabilitation centers, hospice programs, and schools. They visit nursing homes and transitional care facilities, as well as adult daycare centers and camp programs. If you have a certified therapy dog, the volunteer coordinator or the activities director at a facility can help you connect with a program or initiate one.
in Santa Barbara
Three well known organizations test, certify, and insure therapy dogs and their handlers in the Santa Barbara area. Their requirements vary, in terms of preparation, testing, and supervised visitations. In general, they all require a resilient, outgoing, and well behaved dog. If your dog is happy to see all kinds of people and dogs and eagerly welcomes all kinds of new situations, it may make a wonderful therapy dog. Different dogs excel in different settings, and handlers usually find that their own temperament is best suited for a particular environment. It is worth visiting a variety of facilities to determine the best match. Check the websites for the following organizations to learn about their requirements and procedures:
QUICK START GUIDE FOR THERAPY DOG HANDLERS
The following steps will help you get started in certifying your dog as a therapy dog:
1) Start with a very outgoing, friendly, tolerant, and resilient dog who loves all people and all other dogs.
2) Add obedience training for a reliable and prompt sit, stay, down, "leave it!" and recall.
3) Add exposure to all sorts of people, terrain, staircases, elevators, carpeting, beds, carts, wheelchairs.
4) Study the Testing Requirements on the Therapy Dogs International website or in the box below. Do this part very carefully and thoroughly. The new test is available as of December 2012.
5) When you are confident that your dog would pass all of the test items smoothly, schedule an evaluation with a certified TDI evaluator.
6) When your dog passes the TDI evaluation, have your vet fill out the TDI Vet form. Send your registration, dog's headshot photo, and vet form to TDI.
7) When you receive membership confirmation from TDI -- dog ID, yellow tag, proof of insurance, handbook -- you and your dog are a certified team.
8) Contact the Volunteer Office or Activities Director at facilities you wish to visit, and arrange for a visit and orientation.
See Quick Start guide at bottom of this page for
"How To Certify Your Dog"
9) Be prepared to show your membership with a certifying organization, your proof of insurance, and your dog's rabies certificate.
TEST ITEMS FOR THERAPY DOGS INTERNATIONAL TESTING (updated, December 16th, 2012):
1) Simulating a hospital reception desk: The dog/handler teams are lined up to be checked in (simulating a visit). The evaluator ("volunteer coordinator') will go down the line of registrants and greet each new arrival, including each dog. At the same time, the collars must be checked, as well as nails, ears, and grooming.
This is to simulate the arrival at a facility where the coordinator first greets the visiting dog team and instructs the handler on proper grooming before a therapy dog visit. The dogs must permit the evaluator to check the collar, all 4 paws, ears and tail which must be lifted if applicable. The dog must be friendly and outgoing upon meeting the evaluator, willing to visit without being invasive, and show impeccable manners.
2) The handler is asked to complete the paperwork and check in. At that time, a helper will ask the handler if she/he can help by holding the dog. If the handler prefers, she/he can go with the helper and place the dog with a stay command. The dog will be out of sight of the handler. Another helper will take charge of the dog. The helper can talk to and pet the dog. The dog can sit, lie down, stand or walk around within the confine of the leash.
3) As the dog/handler team walks toward the patients' rooms, there should be various people standing around. Some of the people will try visiting with the dog. The dog/handler team must demonstrate that the dog can withstand the approach of several people at the same time and is willing to visit and to walk around a group of people.
4) The evaluator will ask all the participants to line up with their dogs in a heel position (with dog on left), with eight feet between each team. Now the handlers will put their dogs in a sit/stay position. The evaluator will tell the handlers to leave their dogs. Handlers step out to the end of their six-foot leash and wait for the evaluator's command to return to their dogs.
5) Same as test #4, except dogs will now be in a down-stay. The dogs must stay in place as ordered. These exercises will show how well the dog responds when other dogs are present.
6) All handlers will be seated. Three dogs at a time will be fitted with a long line. One handler at a time will take the dog to a designated area and down the dog. Upon the command from the evaluator, the handler will tell the dog to stay. The handler will walk to the end of the twenty-foot line, turn around, and upon a command from the evaluator will recall the dog. For all practical purposes, the recall is one of the most important obedience exercises for the dog to master. If a dog does not come when called, the dog is not obedient and cannot be trusted in public.
7) The dog should show willingness to visit a person and demonstrate that it can be readily made 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 patientto be easily reached.) For this part of the test, a wheelchair or bed can be used. The evaluator will supply a rubber bath mat and a towel.
8) The dog/handler team must be walking in a straight line. The dog can be on either side, or slightly behnind the handler; the leash must not be tight. The evaluator will ask the handler to have the dog sit (the handler may say "sit.") Next, the evaluator will ask the handler to down the dog. Continuing in a straight line, the handler will be asked to make a right, left, and an about turn at the evaluator's discretion. The following distractions may be added: passing and visiting a person with crutches or walker; someone running by calling "excuse me, excuse me," waving hands; a person on a bicycle or skateboard or rollerblades; another person walking by, dropping a loud object; a person with wheelchair, walker, or shopping cart passing the team and engaging in visiting.
9)The dog/handler team meets a person using a walker; the dog should approach the person and visit. The person with the walker will offer the dog a treat. The handler must instruct the dog to "leave it." Dog must ignore the food.
10) The dog handler will resume walking in a straight line with the dog at heel. There will be a piece of food in the path of the dog. The dog must leave it.
11) A volunteer with a demo dog will walk past the dog/handler team, turn around, and ask the handler a question. After a brief conversation, the two handlers part. The dog should not show any kind of negative reaction, and the handler should not allow the dog to visit with the demo dog.
12) The dog/handler team is ready to enter a door to the facility. The handler first has to put the dog in a sit, stand, or down-stay, whichever is appropriate for the dog. If there is no door available, an area simulating an entrance should be marked. A person should be able to go through the entrance before the dog/handler team.
The last test is completed only upon passing all other tests:
13) The last phase of the test shows us if the dog will be able to work well around 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 running or being present at the testing site. The evaluator must designate an areaat least 10 feet away from the dog and handler. The dog may be walked, or put in a sit or down position. The children will be instructed to run and yell and do whatever children usually do while playing. Disobedience, aggression, or avoidance/shyness in the dog will result in automatic failure.
For testing with Therapy Dogs International:
1) Dogs must be at least one year old.
2) Dogs must be tested in a non-choking collar or harness; no training collars or devices allowed.
3) Owner must show proof of dog's current rabies vaccine, proof of homeowner's or renter's insurance, and proof that dog is licensed in accordance with laws in their jurisdiction.