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Therapy Dogs: Do-Good Pooches

How to become a therapy-dog team:

  1. Find dog-therapy programs in your area and consider their time and age requirements. Depending on how long it takes your organization to complete the evaluation process, expect to wait one to six months before making your first unsupervised visit.
  2. Schedule a behavior and aptitude test with one of the organization's evaluators. The observation often takes place during a public outing or in a facility you'll visit once you're certified. It's important to see that the dog wants to participate, says Turnbull. Evaluators look at how you and your dog react to scenarios that might occur during a visit, like if medicine drops to the floor or if there is rough petting from a stranger.
  3. As soon as you are cleared for visitations, learn about the volunteering opportunities. Reasons for visits can vary widely, from keeping a pre-surgical patient company to helping a child with special needs, so it may take time to find something that suits you and your dog. Smith recommends limiting your visit to one to two hours a day to prevent the animal from becoming exhausted from the extra contact and attention.