Getting involved in Animal Assisted Therapy is not simply a matter of showing up at the door of the nearest care facility. You will need to ensure that your dog is ready, to find appropriate facilities to visit, and protect yourself from potential liability.
A wide variety of human care facilities now open their doors to properly qualified dogs. This is a welcome change from earlier policies forbidding dogs as unclean, unsafe or even merely inappropriate. These attitudes are not, however, gone. The experience of a facility with one dog will affect its attitude toward all dogs. Every person visiting with their dog should keep this in mind and strive to be an outstanding ambassador for all.
OK. You like the idea. But before you pop in on your nearest care facility you will need to learn more. Is it right for you, and your dog? Does your dog have the personality to enjoy the visits and be safe? There are several organizations that will evaluate your dog for visits that you arrange. Other organizations will evaluate your dog for group visits where your primary obligation will be to show up as promised. If you pass these evaluations then normally insurance will be available to cover visits made under the organization rules.
The best way to get involved is to join a group that can help evaluate your dog, provide some structure, and offer financial protection in the form of insurance. A hospital, convalescent home, or other care facility is more likely to allow visits by organized groups than individuals. Getting involved with a group also gives you an opportunity to learn, with a lower risk of a truly serious mistake. If you are part of a group your schedule is more flexible. You don't risk disappointing people with no visit at all just because you can't attend. As you gain experience you can get your dog evaluated for independent visits, ones that you arrange yourself.
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Also see Books and Publications - How to train your dog, how to start a program, and more.
Help finding information of visiting pets and therapy dogs
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Copyright © 1996-2003, Diane Blackman Created: August 23, 1996 Updated November 12, 2007