There are a few therapy dog organizations out there and each have their own way of testing dogs for therapy work. Below you will find some web sites for these organizations. Keep in mind that the job of a therapy dog is very different than that of a working service dog or working companion animal. A therapy dog is used for emotional support only whereas a working service dog is a vital part or extension of the owner’s physical or mental well being.
Since I am associated with Therapy Dogs International I will go over the testing that they require. Their information can easily be found on their website at tdi-dog.org . TDI basically takes a portion of their test from AKC’s Canine Good Citizen and adds a few extra steps because the dog is going to come in contact with medical equipment and be working in a medical type setting.
All dogs must be evaluated on a buckle collar (or harness). No training tools are to be used during testing.
Dogs must be a year old to be tested.
1) Accepting a friendly stranger: This demonstrates how your dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach you in an everyday situation. The evaluator will greet you while your dog is at your side and carry on a conversation with you sometimes grabbing your hand for a hand shake. The evaluator does not interact with your dog at this point. The dog should show no sign of resentment, aggressiveness or bashfulness. The dog also cannot rush at or lunge at the evaluator. The dog should remain calm and at ease while the evaluator is talking to you.
2) Sitting while being petted: The dog must sit at the owner’s side while the evaluator pets it on its head and body. The dog must sit or stand politely and not struggle to get away or avoid being petted or show shyness. (Greyhounds are not required to sit during testing)
3) Grooming: The dog must accept being brushed with a soft dog brush or comb and have his body touched,( ears and feet). This demonstrates that the dog is used to being groomed, examined by a vet, and shows the owners concern for the dog’s well being. While some signs of wiggling are acceptable any dog that shows signs of resisting and needs to be restrained by the owner will fail the test.
4) Walking on a loose lead: This shows that the owner has control over the dog. The dog must heal at the owner’s side and the owner is given directions by the evaluator. There must be a right turn, a left turn and an about turn with one stop in between and at the end. The dog must not be continuously straining so that the lead is pulled tight, it should not continuously sniff at the ground and must give direct attention to the owner’s commands. If the dog displays total inattentiveness it may fail.
5) Walking among a crowd: The dog is placed in the heel position on the side of the handlers choosing and the owner must heel the dog at close proximity to a least three people. The tester may also have at least one dog on a leash within the crowd. Your dog should continue to heel at your side and although he can show mild interest in the crowd he should not show signs of over exuberance, fear, shyness, or resentment.
6) Sit Stay and Down Stay command. This test shows that the dog understands the owner’s commands and will remain in the place the owner commanded. During the stay portion of this test the dog’s lead will be replaced with a twenty foot lead. The owner will put his dog in a sit and then a down. The evaluator will instruct the owner to put the dog in a stay and have the owner walk to the end of the twenty foot lead. The owner will return to the dog at a normal pace. During this portion of the test the dog must stay in place but can change positions.
7) Come: With the dog still on the twenty foot lead the owner will put him in a sit stay or down stay, walk ten feet away then call the dog to come under instruction from the evaluator. The evaluator may cause some distractions such as petting the dog, but the dog must stay in place. This test ends when the dog follows the come command and the owner reattaches his own lead to the dogs collar.
8) Reactions to other dogs: The evaluator will have another owner and their dog stand opposite of you and your dog. You will approach each other from a distance of approximately ten to fifteen feet, stop, shake hands and engage in short conversation then separate. Your dog should show no more than a casual interest in the other dog. If your dog attempts to jump on the distracting dog or, if after the distracting dog leaves, your dog lunges or begins pulling you toward the other handler or continues to bark in an aggressive manner he will fail.
9) Reactions to other distractions: this part of the test will show how your dog reacts when around everyday distractions encountered in a medical facility. Your evaluator will approach with a walker, wheelchair, cane, and crutches. Your dog should show only casual interest and curiosity. A noise distraction will also be used. This could be a horn, a clanging of pans or the dropping of a large book. The dog can appear slightly startled but it should not panic, try to run, show aggressiveness or bark excessively.
10) Leave It! The leave it command is extremely important to teach a Therapy Dog. Should a patient drop a pill, have chocolates or other foods on a tray and the dog got a hold of it, it could be detrimental to his health not to mention it shows poor manners. The evaluator will drop a piece of food within the dog’s sight. The owner must walk the dog closely around the food, a distance of three feet, while giving the command leave it. The dog should show no interest in the food and should not pull on the leash to try to reach it. A casual look at the food is accepted. While food is used for this part of the test, TDI does not permit food to be used on a Therapy Visit.
11) Acclimation to infirmities: This shows the dog’s confidence when subjected to infirmities you will often see at a hospital or nursing home, such as a limp, shuffling feet, wheezing, and coughing. The evaluator may approach your dog with a heavy uneven limp, coughing loudly, or with a loud voice. The dog should not show fear or anxiety, only slight curiosity is acceptable.
12) Supervised Separation: This demonstrates that the dog will stay well mannered when left with a friendly stranger. The evaluator will take the dog’s lead and ask that you walk out of the dog’s sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continuously bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily. The evaluator can pet and talk calmly to your dog if it seems nervous.
13) Say Hello: The evaluator will test each dog on its willingness to greet a person and to see how the dog can be made accessible to people. For example, a small dog may be placed on someone’s lap or held; a medium and larger dog can sit on a chair or be placed close enough to a patient so the patient can pet the dog. Your dog should not wriggle to get away, lift his paw scratching the evaluator, or jump on the evaluator. He should display a calm and comfortable manner.
Testing with Children in the area must be included so the evaluator can gage the dogs reaction around children doing everyday things such as playing, running, bouncing a ball, etc. Children do not come in direct contact with the dog. If the dog shows negative reactions to children the dog will fail the test.
Therapy dog organizations
Therapy Dogs international http://tdi-dog.org/
Delta society https://www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx?pid=265
Courses and evaluations https://www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx?pid=282
Bright and beautiful http://www.golden-dogs.org/WHO.cfm