Professional Therapy Dogs or Facility Dogs are often handled by psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and educators. Unlike dogs that are handled by a volunteer, these hard working therapy dogs work along side of professionals to enhance their work. They work with a large number of different people on a daily basis.
Therapy Dog Certifications are Insufficient for Professional Therapy Dogs
Most therapy dog evaluations were created for visitation programs. They were intended for use by volunteers who participate with their dog in either visitation or animal assisted therapy for a couple of hours a week. Compare this to the dog who spends 40 hours or more per week in a human healthcare setting interacting with patients next to a human healthcare professional.
Historically, most Professional Therapy Dogs and Facility dogs were trained and placed by service dog programs. The dogs had undergone the same selection process and training that other service dog candidates have including extensive work on public access training, so the dog learned to be calm for long periods of time in complex environments. A minor health issue or training glitch resulted in the dog being “career changed” to work with a healthcare professional instead of directly assisting a person with a disability.
A Professional Therapy Dog or Facility Dog is not actually a service dog and in fact, many of the skills needed of these dogs are different. The dogs need to be able to quickly shift back and forth between responding to a patient and responding to their handler. There has been significant growth and interest by healthcare professionals, educators in Animal Assisted Interventions and many are choosing to acquire their own dogs and train them independently.