Alaska Dog Works has been training therapy dogs for the past decade. Our first therapy dog was Ineka. Some of your may have read the blog posts or heard us talk about Ineka. He was a natural at getting the kids we would visit in local schools to open up and ask questions. Ineka has since retired and passed away but it is our hope that his legacy lives on within each and every therapy dog and service dog we train.Recently, we have been asked to assist people in training their dog to become a therapy dog. We quickly let people know that the training involves them just as much as it does their dog. When you have therapy dog; you are a team.
At Alaska Dog Works we pride ourselves on all of our training and its many benefits to our clients. But in particular we pride ourselves on the work that we devote to our service teams and our therapy teams.
Michele Forto is our lead trainer and program designer for both our service team program and our therapy team program. She is recognized as an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator; and is a Registered Service team evaluator for the Foundation for Service Dog Support.
There is a significant difference between therapy and service. The most recognizable difference is that a service dog goes everywhere with his handler. A therapy dog only goes to a prescribed, volunteered facility/location. A service dog may work for his handler up to 24 hours a day with little or no breaks. A therapy dog is only allowed to work a certain number of hours per week and only at their prescribed location. In other words, if your therapy dog accompanies you once a week to the local library and you participate in a therapy dog reading program, you as a therapy team cannot stop off at the local diner and grab a bite to eat inside at a window table.
While there are many therapy training programs and associations to choose from out there; choosing Alaska Dog Works Therapy Training Program is a unique opportunity. We certify teams for psychiatrists; psychologists; therapists, and other medically related professions. In fact, Alaska Dog Works is on the cutting edge of a new approach in the use of dogs in therapy sessions, assisting the doctors in the treatment of their patients which is being scientifically tested in several areas of study. But don’t let that stop you if you’re just a regular citizen looking to go into volunteering with your dog, Michele can help prepare you for registering through Alaska Dog Works or any other company for that matter. Michele has also prepared teams for re-certification with other companies. Our philosophy here is simple; we believe dogs truly bring joy into people’s lives and we’d rather help that team succeed than sit by and watch it fail.
The therapy team training program at Alaska Dog Works is a relatively simple process. We begin by giving your dog a temperament test to ensure that he is capable of what will be required of him. Depending on the type of therapy team you are training to become depends on the depth of obedience training as well as public access training. Alaska Dog Works utilizes the AKC Canine Good Citizen test as our preliminary test. Once your dog is certified as an AKC Canine Good Citizen we begin working on public access training as well as work environment training. The entire time the team is training they are developing their work ethic. This means that they are learning how to work together and the dog especially is learning to exhibit the best possible manners in all public settings.
Becoming a Dog Works Therapy Team is hard fulfilling work. It should be noted that this type of volunteering is not for everyone. Our evaluation process is intensive so that we are able to determine that the potential team can build their work ethic and be able to maintain their work ethic at a level that will be required of them at the facility they volunteer.
Are you a member of a church or a church organization? Ask us about our D.A.W.G.s (Dogs Assisting with Grace) Therapy Dog Program. Our D.A.W.G.s program is like none other in the country. If you would like work with your dog while giving back to your community this might just be the right way!
Just recently we became the only provider in Alaska for the nationally recognized R.E.A.D. Program, and trained a group of handlers for the local school district.
We are in the process of re-working the program so that we will offer our therapy teams opportunities for visits in the community. The way it works is; once you are a team and pass all of the tests you will be given a red vest with one of our patches on it. In order to use our vest you have to be a member in good standing with our therapy dog club and pay annual dues. This annual membership will keep your team active and available for visits as well as covered under our insurance during the visits.
Michele Forto is a certified canine trainer and business manager for Alaska Dog Works. Michele is also the co-host of the Dog Works Radio Show.