Many people ask me, when Tris is doing her visits, how we got certified to be a therapy dog team. Well, we did some research and chose the organization called Therapy Dogs International (TDI). They list the tests the dog will need to pass on their website, and you can choose to get trained at a center, or do it yourself. We tried the do it yourself training. Once you feel prepared you can go to a training center, on the scheduled day, and take the test.
The TDI Test is divided into two phases and has 13 individual tests and additional exercises within each test. Here are some of the phase 1 tests:
The dog must wear either a flat buckle or snap-in collar (non corrective) or a harness (non-corrective), all testing must be on a 6ft leash.*
TEST 1: TDI ENTRY TABLE (Simulated as a Hospital Reception Desk)
The dog/handler teams are lined up to be checked in (simu- lating a visit). The evaluator (“volunteer coordinator”) will go down the line of registrants and greet each new arrival including each dog. At the same time the collars will be checked, as well as nails, ears and grooming and lifting of all 4 paws and tail, which must be lifted if applicable. If the dog has a short cropped tail it should be touched.
TEST 2: CHECK-IN AND OUT OF SIGHT (time: One Minute)
The handler will be asked to check in. After the check-in has been completed the handler will be escorted by a helper to where the handler is supposed to sit. All dogs will be placed in a down position on the handler’s left side keeping teams at least 8 feet apart. Now the handler will start completing the paperwork. Once all teams have been placed, the helper(s) will ask the handler(s) if they can hold their dogs. Now the handler(s) will leave for “one minute”. The handler(s) can give the “stay” command verbally or by hand signal or both. The helper(s) can talk to and pet the dog(s). The dog(s) can sit, lie down, stand or walk around within the confines of the leash.
TEST 3: GETTING AROUND PEOPLE
As the dog/handler team walks toward the patients’ rooms, there will be various people standing around. Some of the people will try visiting with the dog. The dog/handler team must demonstrate that the dog can withstand the approach and touching by several people from all sides at the same time and is willing to visit and walk around a group of peo- ple.
TEST 4: GROUP SIT/STAY
The evaluator will ask all the participants to line up with their dogs in a heel position (w/dog on left or right), with 8 ft. between each team. Now the handlers will put their dogs in a sit/stay position. The handlers will give the sit command to the dogs. The evaluator will tell the handlers to leave their
*If the dog is on a longer leash, a knot must be made in the leash to mark 6 ft. The handler must drop the extra leash.
dogs. The handlers will step out to the end of their 6 ft. leash, turn around and face the dog(s) and wait for the evaluator’s command to return to their dog(s). (The evaluator will give the return command immediately).
TEST 5: GROUP DOWN/STAY
Same as test number 4, except dogs will now be in a down/ stay.
TEST 6: RECALL ON A 20 FT. LEASH
All handlers will be seated. Three dogs at a time will be fitted with a long line. The reason we fit more than one dog with a long line at the same time is to save time. The handler will continue to hold the 6 ft leash while the long line is fitted by a helper. To avoid any kind of incident, the evaluator will make sure that the handler is holding the 6 ft leash until the dog has been placed and is ready to be tested for the recall. One handler at a time will take the dog to a designated area which is out of reach of the other dogs even with a 20 ft. line. The evaluator will then give the command: Down your dog!. The handler can down the dog either by voice and or by hand signal. The evaluator will give the command: Leave your dog!. The handler will tell the dog to stay either by voice and or by hand signal. The handler now will turn away from the dog and walk in a straight line to the end of the 20 ft. lead. The handler will turn and face the dog. The evaluator imme- diately will tell the handler to call the dog. The handler will call the dog, either by voice, hand signal or both.
TEST 7: VISITING WITH A PATIENT
The dog should show willingness to visit a person and dem- onstrate that it can be made readily accessible for petting (i.e. small dogs will be placed on a person’s lap or held; medium dogs will sit on a chair or stand close to the patient to be eas- ily reached, and larger dogs will be standing).
Once you pass you receive a kit, a bandana, an ID, and some paperwork that you will need to take along to your visits. Then you can jump right in. We chose our sites, but you can also accept invitations to people’s homes or locations that are requesting a dog team. We have nearly 50 visits acrued so far and look forward to having many many more in the future.