Education is key.
- Ask if you can shadow a LAPS therapy session (or two) by calling our office. This will give you a first-hand understanding of what AAT is like, ideas on how to handle your own pet in a facility, and the subtle skills needed to reach out safely and successfully to clients.
- Make time to read about animal-assisted therapy on the internet. Start with the "Finding Help" section below.
- Socialize your pet to different sounds, smells, movement, people, and other animals.
If your pet shows signs of stress with certain situations or with a specific stimulus, take note of it. Find ways to help the pet deal with these concerns and work on building your pet’s confidence.
When taking your pet out in public, look for places that your pet can be safely and don’t push your pet to deal with more than he/she can handle. In addition, only take your pet to locations that allow Companion Animals, such as public parks and local pet supply stores. PLEASE don’t take your pet into places where only Service Animals are allowed. By respecting State and Federal access laws, you support those who need their service animals to manage basic life activities.
What If My Dog Needs More Obedience Training ?
Obedience skills are necessary for a reliable, happy therapy dog.
Therapy dogs must obey basic commands such as
They need to Stay in place in the face of distractions and Walk easily on a leash. They need to do all of these things reliably and without food rewards in order to be effective and safe in therapy settings.
LAPS strongly encourages their teams to take multiple training classes to strengthen the bond and improve communication between handler and pet. The more responsive you are to your dog, the better your chances to succeed as an animal-assisted therapy team.
If you feel that you and your pet are not quite ready for volunteering as an animal-assisted therapy (AAT) team, we applaud your honesty! AAT is performed in the real world and handlers who make an effort to prepare themselves and their pets properly often volunteer successfully for many, many years. Taking the time to learn more about therapy work and how it could impact your pet is vital. After all, your pet is your companion first and anything else second.