Our Therapy Dog Accreditation Program
Our Training & Accreditation program at PHP is unique. We offer the following:
- Knowledgeable and Dedicated Training Staff lead by Professional Dog Trainer
- Assessments and Training conducted within a Long-Term Care Facility provides teams hands-on practice
- Small classes create atmosphere of learning and sharing
- Individualized placement support following successful program completion
- Opportunities for increased involvement, special events and group outings
- Graduates are able to apply for Canine Good Citizen designation through American Kennel Club.
Individuals interested in becoming an accredited Handler-Pet Team with our organization who have a dog that is at least 1 year old that is well mannered, friendly, and in good health are invited to contact us for more information. Here is an outline of our program:
Part 1 – Assessment
Our program begins with a 30-minute assessment where both dog and handler are guided through a series of tasks, each one designed to measure a specific skill and temperament quality necessary to be a good therapy dog team. Our assessment process focuses on:
- Temperament (your dog’s response to environment and handling)
- Obedience (Basic obedience commands, leash manners, level of control)
- Initiation/Engagement of Others (Your Dog’s Desire & Comfort with Strangers)
The Assessment is an initial indicator of the team’s suitability and readiness to begin training to become an accredited Pets Helping People handler-pet team. Handlers and their dogs that successfully pass assessment are invited to attend a 4-week training class. There is a $25 fee for the assessment.
Part 2 – Therapy Class & Testing
For teams who pass the Assessment, our 4 week class is designed to prepare the handler and their dog to engage in animal assisted therapy activities. The classes combine demonstration, individual and group activities, and role playing with actual client visits and scenarios within a controlled and supervised setting. Week 1 begins with an orientation to Animal Assisted Interventions and their benefits, discussion of the many varied opportunities to become involved, and exploring the role and responsibilities of being a volunteer handler. Weeks 2 and 3 provide the teams an opportunity to practice interactions and prepare for their visits in many different types of settings including bed-work. Week 4 is test night where each team is asked to perform a series of tasks, similar to assessment, designed to test the team’s readiness to practice Animal Assisted Interventions independently. Our accreditation exam includes all components of the Canine Good Citizen Exam as well as components specific to animal assisted interactions.
Teams who successfully pass the final exam are asked to submit some final paperwork and work begins to locate their best placement. There is a $75 fee for the testing.
Part 3 – Paperwork & Placement
Upon successful completion of the evaluation handlers are asked to provide evidence of liability insurance and a statement from their vet stating the dog is in good health and current on its shots and care. Once the paperwork is submitted we work individually with handlers to find and place each team at a facility or facilities specifically suited to their interests and needs. A new team’s initial placement is tailored to ensure success and can include an observational visit, a paired-visit with an experienced team, etc. Follow-up discussions and debriefs are also standard components of our placement program.
“I chose to commute weekly from Madison in order to attend their program. They helped instill confidence in my dog; I was able to watch her grow.” – Erin Flynn Read more of Erin’s story here
Our Partnership With Congregational Home, Brookfield, WI
A vital component of our Assessment and Training Program is our ability to conduct all our assessments and training classes right inside a long-term care facility. This provides our new handlers and their dogs a great introduction and exposure to the sights, sounds, smells and events similar to many of the environments they will encounter. It allows handlers to practice in a real setting under observation of trained staff offering an opportunity to debrief and share insights following an interaction.
Through a remarkable partnership with Congregational Home, Pets Heling People has been able to provide our teams an opportunity to assess and train in an actual facility. This allows owners and their dogs an opportunity to experience firsthand the sights, sounds and smells similar to those they will encounter when out visiting. Training in a facility where residents are welcome to stop in and visit during class exposes our new teams to the unpredictability of doing volunteer work. It helps new handlers gain experience in real-life situations and experience builds confidence. And with confidence comes calmness, something extremely important when doing therapy-dog work.