Becoming a Therapy Team
Becoming a therapy animal team is a rewarding volunteer activity for everyone involved. Therapy animals serve in a variety of roles. Some of them visit people in hospitals and long term care facilities, others participate in reading programs at schools, some go into advanced training and respond to emergency situations and help people to remain calm and feel safe while talking to authorities. There are several different ways to become a team with your animal, and many different organizations. There are basic guidelines and procedures to follow regardless of what path you take to become a therapy animal team.
1. First, evaluate whether or not your pet will enjoy therapy work. A worried animal who fears noises and new people will not be well suited to going to schools or hospitals to be petted by new people. Usually a calm disposition and solid on leash obedience will help you and your animal to meet the handling requirements.
2. Once it is determined that therapy work will be fulfilling to you and your pet, you will need to get some solid obedience training. A good guideline for the level of obedience that will be required is the Canine Good Citizen Test offered by the AKC.
3. In addition to looking for solid obedience skills, many therapy animal organizations will test for reactivity to noise, comfort level with medical equipment, and socialization to other animals.
4. Find a therapy animal organization that suits you and your pet. Some of the recognized national organizations are; InterMountain Therapy Animals, Therapy Dogs Incorporated, Delta Society and Bright and Beautiful. Check our their websites and see if their mission statement fits you and your dog. You will also find out what testing is required by each organization.
5.Find out what the testing requirements are with your selected group. Cold Noses, Warm Hearts has evaluators qualified to test for Intermountain Therapy Animals and Pet Partners. We offer the required human course at Tails U Win Canine Center 3-4 times a year. You can check on our calendar on this website to see when the next one is scheduled. The cost of $100.00 which includes you manual, pertinent articles and more. Here you will learn what is required of a Pet Therapy Team along with how to relate to differenct populations, how to be an advocate for your dog and how to enter and/or begin a Pet Therapy Program and so much more.
6. If you feel you and your dog woiuld like some additional training, Terrie Carpenter offers a Family Dog III class at Tails U Win on an as needed basis. The cost is $140.00 for 6 - one hour weekly sessions. These classes are in no way required, but many find them helpful to learn how to train your dog for the very different and exciting situations that you will find yourself in while participatinng in Pet Therapy.
7. If you want to work at a particular facility, inquire with them about volunteer requirements. If you wish to volunteer at a facility that does not currently have a Pet Therapy Program, members of Cold Noses, Warm Hearts will be happy to assist you. Also, we offer mentoring for first time teams. Often you will go with an experienced team without your dog to watch how visits are being done the first time without your dog, and the second visit will be with the same handler (without his/her dog) to help out if needed.
Spend some time educating yourself of appropriate etiquette for medical settings, interacting with people who have disabilities, and child safety during therapy visits. Many organizations offer classes on these subjects and some require them before you will be allowed to visit.
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Steps to Become a R.E.A.D. Team
1. You must be a registered therapy dog team to become a R.E.A.D. team. Register with an animal assisted therapy group. This will give you insurance during a visit, and some of the training you need to become a R.E.A.D. team. Some animal assisted therapy groups are Intermountain Therapy Animals (www.therapyanimals.org.), Therapy Dogs Incorporated (www.therapydogs.com) and Delta Society (www.deltasociety.org).
2. Contact Cold Noses, Warm Hearts to find out when and where the next R.E.A.D. training will be held. We offer the R.E.A.D. training every 3-4 months at Tails U Win Canine Center in Manchester, CT. The classe is 3-4 hours long and costs $100.00. This incudes your manual, examples of motivational items for the children 5 books to you to get started and more.
3. Or contact Intermountain Therapy to find out how you can purchase materials online (www.therapyanimals.org).
4. Once you complete the necessary training and receive your R.E.A.D. certificate you will need to register with ITA
5. Once your paperwork is received, it is reviewed and if everything is there, ITA will send you your membership card, R.E.A.D. dog tag, and letter saying you are registered with the R.E.A.D. program. It usually takes 1 to 2 weeks for you to receive this packet