Dogs need special training for certification to work with peopl

October 22, 2003

"You say you want a dog certified to work with people?" I asked. With an affirmative answer, I asked if she knew she would be evaluated as well as the dog, and she was surprised. She said she knew of people who had certified dogs and only their dogs were tested. I answered that that happened when the idea of dogs used in therapy was just starting, now is different.

The dog is expected to have sufficient training to pass the Canine Good Citizen test as a minimum. For specific therapy, the dog may need to exhibit patience and tolerance as the client reads to him for twenty or more minutes, or have patience and tolerance as a patient re-learns how to hold a brush or comb and exercises the hand and arm muscles by running the tool through the dog's coat.

The handler is graded on his or her friendliness, whether there is eye contact, smiles and ability to make small talk. The handler must be aware of possible animal responses, behavior, and position, and reassures, cues or commands (as needed) to help the animal be successful. He or she must ensure the animal's well being.


Further, the handler is evaluated on how the animal is corrected. Yelling, even a loud voice, or a hard jerk on the leash lowers the score substantially. Gentle interaction, such as speaking in a friendly, conversational, or normal tone of voice to the animal gets high scores.

This part of the test makes me consider practicing with other people before going in for the test. The handler is scored on the amount of confidence, naturalness and relaxed attitude during the test. If any of you are like me, practice, practice, practice with different groups before setting a date.

At my first novice obedience trial, I lost my voice completely. My dog was well schooled and followed me around on the heel-on-leash exercise and figure-8 test, and she stood correctly with a hand signal for the stand for examination.

Finally, the judge took pity on me and walked me toward the spot to begin the heel-free exercise, he told a joke on the way, and it was so silly, I laughed, regaining my voice in time to pass the remaining exercises and qualify. Yes, if this is your first experience being evaluated, please practice beforehand.

Finally, there is a notation that handlers may praise and reassure the animal as needed throughout the exercises, but cannot offer food or use toys.

A score is given on how the team relates to the evaluator and assistants. Other scores are given on: appropriate handler behavior toward the dog and people while on the test grounds and willingness to correct inappropriate behavior. Whether handler is ready to work as a handler or whether he/she seems stressed or uncomfortable during the tests is also considered.

If this sounds scary, remember that many others have taken these tests and passed, so if they can do it, so can you! Good Luck!|None***

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