1. Register for Pet Therapy Class – Level 1 Predictable.
With the first level of pet therapy training, you and your dog will have the expertise and certification to enter predictable environments.
A Predictable environment is one that typically has a low level of activity with high involvement from staff. Predictable environments include:
- Nursing homes
- Alzheimer Units
- One-on-one reading sessions in schools and libraries (Bow Wow Reading)
2. Sign up for the Pet Therapy Evaluation.
After you have completed the Pet Therapy Class – Level 1 Predictable session and have received feedback from your instructor that your dog is indeed ready to test, you may register for an evaluation.
Before being accepted as an Austin Dog Alliance therapy team, you and your dog must pass an evaluation. The evaluation takes place in a location where the dog has never been and must interact with complete strangers – this is meant to simulate a real pet therapy visit. The test consists of two parts that assesses the dog’s obedience skills and the dog’s temperament in a variety of situations.
During the evaluation, we are assessing:
- how well you and your dog can work together as a team
- how proactive you are with your dog in a variety of situations
- your dog’s body language
- We do this to ensure that the dog is enjoying the interactions with the strangers during the evaluation. We feel strongly that if the dogs do not enjoy the exercises, they should not be forced to visit in therapy situations.
All new teams are eligible to volunteer in predictable environments.
3. Join the Austin Dog Alliance Pet Therapy Group.
Once you pass the evaluation, you and your dog are eligible for membership in Austin Dog Alliance’s therapy team program. You will be required to submit proof that your dog is healthy enough for visits and that all vaccinations are current. For teams that are not facing financial hardship, a yearly membership fee is required. This fee offsets some of the costs of providing you with the following:
- $1 Million in liability coverage when volunteering at an Austin Dog Alliance partner facility
- Support of a volunteer therapy coordinator who will assist you in finding a volunteer facility that meets your needs
- Background check
- Volunteer t-shirt
- Twice a year volunteer appreciation events, including the end of year awards dinner
- Ability to consult with a professional dog trainer when needed
In order to provide consistent and up-to-date care to all our clients, Austin Dog Alliance re-certifies its therapy teams every three years.
Continuing Education – Complex Certification
After completing 30 hours of volunteer work in predictable environments, any pet therapy teams that are interested in working in more complex settings are eligible to continue their education. They may register for Pet Therapy Class – Level 2 Complex class to begin that journey.
A complex setting is one that can be described as having multiple distractions and a lot of activity. Typically there is not much staff involvement in complex settings. These include:
- Classroom/library story times
- Dog safety/group presentations
- Occupational/Physical Therapy/Rehab Centers
Complex Plus Certification
The Pet Therapy Training – Level 3 Complex Plus training class is for complex pet therapy teams that have successfully completed and documented 30 hours of volunteer work at the complex level. This course is for complex pet therapy teams wanting to build upon their skills and work in complex plus pet therapy settings.
A complex plus setting is one that has multiple individuals present at once (2 or more) that have significant learning, developmental, or behavior challenges. These include:
- Special Needs Classrooms that serve students with autism, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, etc.
- Adult Care Facilities that serve adults with special needs who need assistance and care with living on their own because of significant learning difficulties, autism, etc.
- Psychiatric Facilities
- Events for Special Needs Populations