How can I get involved?
Where do I start?
Start with the dog. Dogs must be at least a year old, must have been living in your household at least six months, have current vaccinations and wellness care, be pest-free, and clean. Individual registries may have additional requirements. (For example, Pet Partners will not register dogs who are fed raw diets.)
You need a dependable, confident, social, trainable, eager-to-please, and predictable dog. Think long and hard before you commit to train a fearful dog, an easily distracted dog, a shy dog, a dog who doesn’t innately want to please. Our attention is always torn between the immediate task, the larger situation, and our dogs. A reluctant dog makes it really hard to attend to the people end of our job.
What else you will need
- If you plan to join Pet Partners, you will need to complete their online course. Therapy Dogs International does not require such a course, but they limit team involvement to animal-assisted activities (AAA such as petting, reading to the dogs).
- Time to train your dog to a Canine Good Citizen title (or its equivalent).
- Time to train beyond that. You will want to introduce your dog to lots of different sorts of places, smells, noises, people, behaviors, and circumstances. And there are things your dog has to be able to do or handle in order to pass a test. Visit the Web site of your preferred registry organization for information on their testing.
- Pass the registry organization’s testing process.
- Time to actually volunteer with your partner. Much, though not all, of our work is done when organizational staff are available; that’s usually during normal working hours.
- Real understanding of your dog and yourself. What are your and his likes, dislikes, phobias, triggers? You will use this information to screen your opportunities.
- Ability to pay attention to your dog, your client, and your surroundings all at the same time. Only you can keep your dog out of trouble.
- Ability to read your dog. Know when she is tired, bored, needs a drink, is worried or frightened.
- Money. Pet Partners current costs are $70 for the online course and $95 to register one handler and dog. Your will also need a recent vet visit, heartworm check, fecal check, and current vaccinations. There may a charge to take the test. TDI is less expensive, but money is still involved.
The not-so-fine print
Like any volunteer position, there are wondrous days, days you could weep, days you are bored out of your mind, days when nobody seems to care. The big moments when there’s a breakthrough or an extraordinary outcome aren’t nearly as frequent as we’d like. It helps to be someone who doesn’t need immediate rewards.
You wouldn’t be thinking of doing this if you weren’t a generous person. That may mean you are already pretty busy. And you wouldn’t do this if you didn’t love doing things with your dog, so perhaps you already have a lot of dog commitments.
People who ask us to do this depend on us to deliver. They have jobs serving needy clients, and they take great pains to get permission to bring us aboard, to find space for us, to arrange everyone’s schedules, perhaps to promote the event. Volunteers have to take any commitment they make very seriously. That means volunteers should not agree to participate in an event in the hope that they’ll be available, but rather they make the commitment to be available.
Still interested? Click here to learn about specifics of training!
Or contact us with questions.