He or she doesn’t need to be a pedigree dog, but does need to be gentle of spirit and social with humans and other dogs. Some degree of obedience training is necessary. Your dog will need to know how to walk with a lead and obey commands. He or she should be able to sit still for long periods, not be easily distracted, and enjoy being touched and patted by strangers. A dog that is aggressive, snappy or doesn’t react well to strangers won’t make a good therapy dog.
Some organisations require that dogs complete at least one level of the Canine Good Citizen programme. It’s a “dog manners and behaviour” programme which teaches doggie etiquette and good social behaviour. It’s very important that the dog and his or her handler share a strong bond.
Once you have a suitable dog and are confident that this is the right volunteer programme for you, you’ll need to find an organisation and sign up.
• Call up the organisation and ask about their programme. You may be invited to attend a few sessions without your dog, to get a feel for the work.
• You and your dog will be assessed for suitability. You may have a personal interview or you may need to fill in an extensive form.
• Some organisations may require that your dog passes certain tests before he or she is registered. Ask about these and where you can complete them.
• You will need to commit to a number of visits per month, depending on the organisation with which you work.
Before signing up, always make sure that you can put in these hours. People are counting on you.
Published By: Bronwyn Kemsley