T.dog trains dogs, handlers to provide therapy
“Almost everyone has a story to tell about a special dog,” says Kathy Webb, vice president of Therapy Dogs of Georgetown (t.dog). Kathy and Luke, an accomplished black Labrador Retriever, go on therapy dog visits twice a week in Georgetown. View visited with Kathy about how therapy dogs are trained to visit, listen, and interact with people in need of a little canine comfort.
What happens on a visit?
When you are on a visit, [the handler’s] goal is to manage your dog well and to engage in meaningful conversations. You always have to first advocate for your dog by watching for stress signals and being prepared to take action in the best interest of the animal.
Where do therapy dogs visit?
In Georgetown, therapy dogs visit St. David’s Hospital, GISD schools, Southwestern University, Georgetown Public Library, First Baptist Church’s Celebrate Recovery, hospice, assisted living facilities, memory care centers, and skilled nursing homes. Our organization also has handlers interested in rehabilitation centers, courthouse work, child advocacy programs, and disaster relief. We simply ask our handlers where they would like to volunteer, and we do our best to make it happen!
Who is a good candidate?
Handlers and dogs are registered as a team. The dog has to be a year old, and handlers have to have known the dog for a year. Your dog is a good candidate if he has an outstanding temperament, gets along with other dogs, loves children, and tolerates other animals. It’s also very important that the person on the other end of the leash is trainable!
What does t.dog provide?
Our organization provides handler/dog team training, workshops, evaluations, places to visit, and continuing education. Depending on the dog’s obedience skills (sit, down, recall, etc.), therapy dog training may start in the beginner, intermediate, or advanced class.
Towards the end of intermediate classes, handler/dog teams take a ten-step American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. Teams that pass the CGC move on to the advanced class and also take an eight-hour Pet Partners workshop. Finally, Pet Partners evaluates each team’s skills and aptitude. At the end of that 22-part evaluation, the handler/dog team is given a rating of predictable [meaning that the team is ready for most therapy work] or complex [meaning that the team has achieved the highest rating and can work in any therapy situation, even in the most challenging environments].