I’d Love to volunteer with Sparky and become a Therapy Dog team, but how?

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A note from the editor: I have personally experienced the benefit a Therapy Dog can provide you when you are hospitalized. They just make you smile, which is no small thing when you have been lying flat on your back attached to more IV’s and monitors then you want to recall. The feeling they leave you with lingers too. Painkillers? Gimme a dog licking my face anytime! – Gary

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Want to Be a Therapy Dog Team? Start Here!

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Guest blogger Rachel McPherson is the founder and executive director of The Good Dog Foundation in New York City and author of the new book Every Dog Has a Gift  from Tarcher/Penguin Publishing.

The following is an excerpt from the Petfinder Blog.

 People frequently ask me how their dog can become a therapy dog. There is a common misconception that therapy dogs need to be a certain breed, or raised to be therapy dogs from a very young age. On the contrary, therapy dogs come in all breeds and sizes!

A therapy dog can provide healing to his or her companion or family, as well as hundreds of other people in a therapeutic setting – whether a hospital, a school or a retirement home. The remarkable work of therapy dogs (as well as service dogs and household pets) inspired me to write Every Dog Has a Gift. Likewise, I hope that readers will be inspired by the amazing stories in this book to do some good work with their own companion dog!

If you’re interested in getting your dog certified, here are some tips to get you started: 

* Find a reputable therapy-dog organization. If you’re located on the East coast, visit TheGoodDogFoundation.org. If not, find an animal-assisted therapy organization in your state that offers a training program. There are a number of organizations mentioned in the book, and many can be found online as well.

* Undergo an evaluation and a training course. A good animal-assisted therapy organization should offer a thorough evaluation, training program, basic obedience training (if necessary) and follow-up. An experienced trainer will evaluate you and your dog as a team and place you in the appropriate courses. Training courses should use positive reinforcement and patient, reward-based methods.

* Volunteer! The Good Dog Foundation maintains relationships with hospitals, schools and other facilities where we help schedule and orient therapy teams as they begin their outreach. After certification by a therapy organization, you and your dog can volunteer on your own or, even better, work with that organization to find volunteer opportunities in your area.

If you would like to continue reading more sections from this article, including:

* Why become a Therapy Dog team?

* What do Therapy Dogs practice?

* How are Therapy Dogs evaluated?

* How do Therapy Dogs get certified?

* Therapy Dogs and kids: How they help?

Please visit the Petfinder Blog (this link will take you directly to the article)

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Deirdre Mahon
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 23:40:15

    Great article Celia. I have oftened thought about making Deeva and Lily therapy dogs. ~dee

    Reply

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