It is important that your pet is comfortable around people and other animals. They should not be afraid of loud noises or strange smells, troubled by people who walk unsteadily, by people who use a walker or cane, or by those confined to a wheelchair. Your pet should not be bothered by being touched all over and must remain calm while being petted. Jumping up on people and pulling when on a leash are not permitted. Your animal must be at least one year old, have updated vaccinations, a yearly health exam and a negative fecal test. If your pet is a dog, it should know the basic obedience commands.*
The next step is to enroll your pet (dog) in a Canine Good Citizen class.* This class stresses the responsibility of being a good pet owner and teaches basic good manners for your dog. The handlers and their pets are tested after class completion and will receive a Canine Good Citizens certificate if all steps are passed (See AKC Good Citizen Test).
You are now ready to work towards your pet therapy registration.* A therapy team volunteers at schools, hospitals and assisted living homes. Therapy dogs are NOT service dogs. Service dogs are specifically trained to help disabled persons. Service dogs stay with their person and have special access privileges in public places.Therapy dogs do not have the same privileges. Therapy teams volunteer to help improve the lives of people in their communities. While training to become a therapy team, you will learn proper handling skills and how you and your dog ( or other animal) should interact with residents or strangers in healthcare facilities or other environments. During training, you and your pet will be supervised and evaluated on visits and later tested by a certified tester/observer on your handling skills and your pet's basic good manners. Upon successful completion of your test and after all the paperwork is properly submitted for your membership application, you will be notified by the national organization that provided the tester that you and your pet are a registered pet therapy team.
*NOTE: Founder Sherry Dodson is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. She provides Puppy Kindergarten, Beginner, Canine Good Citizen, and Pet Therapy classes through Start Them Right, Inc.