Become a therapy pair

Ula, Gaia - izrezHow can I become a therapy pair?


What sort of dog is suitable for therapy work?

The breed is not important, nor having a pedigree, crossbreeds are also welcome. Nor it is important whether a dog has been spayed/neutered. But the dog must be:

  • at least one year old (there is no upper age limit, it depends on the state of health and the condition of the individual dog),
  • well brought up and trained,
  • an affectionate companion,
  • tolerant, adaptable,
  • friendly towards a variety of people – both known and unknown,
  • psychically and physically stable.


What must the handler of a therapy dog or a trainee dog be like?

The handler of a therapy dog or a trainee dog must be at least 18 years old. In working with a therapy dog

he will be successful only if he is

  • exceptionally responsible,
  • respectful and well-intentioned towards people and animals,
  • independent, enterprising, communicative, resourceful, patient,
  • an exemplary and loving carer of his dog in all aspects.


What knowledge does the handler of a therapy dog or a trainee dog need to have?

The handler is required to constantly upgrade his knowledge and revise it regularly at professional and cynological training sessions organized by the Society. In addition he must acquire basic specific knowledge about the conditions and illnesses of the clients he visits with the dog. Naturally, the handler must know the basic facts of cynology, and in particular be well acquainted with:

  • the work of therapy dogs,
  • the personality characteristics and capabilities of his dog,
  • the dog’s body language,
  • signs of stress in the dog, and how to respond appropriately to them,
  • measures to ensure safety (both of clients and the dog).


What certificates/education/training are necessary for my dog and me to become a therapy pair?

The dog and his handler become a therapy pair after successfully completing the training and the final examination. Before undergoing training the following points are necessary:

  • a certificate declaring the handler’s non-criminality,
  • a statement from the CRP (Central Dog Register) showing that the dog does not have the status of a dangerous dog,  
  • successful testing of the dog’s suitability for therapy work,
  • a written test and discussion with the handler,
  • undertaking (the initial weekend of) professional and cynological training,
  • a veterinary examination and report demonstrating the dog’s appropriate state of health,
  • selecting a mentor and obtaining his agreement.

The above requirements are listed in chronological order, thus the handler should follow this sequence. 


When does testing of dogs regarding their suitability for therapy work take place? What does it involve?

  • Testing is carried out by the Society once a year, usually in January or February.
  • An announcement about the testing is given in due time on the Society’s website and on FB Tačke pomagačke.
  • The dog must be at least 12 months old at the time of testing.
  • The testing is carried out by a member of the Society who is a dog instructor with a license from the Kennel Club of Slovenia (Kinološka zveza Slovenije). She observes the dog’s behaviour, especially his manageability, harmony with the handler, reactions in encountering unknown persons and dogs, etc.


Must the dog have taken the BBH examination?

Yes, the dog must have passed examination A (the examination for a companion dog) or the B-BH examination (the examination for a companion dog with a test of behaviour in an urban environment and a professional examination for the handler).


I have already undergone testing of my dog and professional training in another society. Is this sufficient and can I begin with the trainee practical training?

No. The candidate must undergo testing of his dog and professional training in our Society. The testing results have only internal validity – for the needs of a society.


I am a member of another society for dog-assisted therapy. Can I become your member as well?

No. If you are already a member of another society for dog assisted therapy, you cannot simultaneously be a member of the Tačke pomagačke Society  or related organizations as well.


How extensive is the professional and cynological training? What is the content like?

The Society organizes the basic training once a year, generally in March or April. It is concentrated over a weekend – the first part (Saturday) without the dogs, for the second part (Sunday) the trainees bring their dogs. In addition to the basic theoretical material which the handler of a therapy dog must know, experienced members present some examples of good practice and lead workshops. The participants of this training are given a list of mentors and the necessary information for what follows, especially

  • instructions for arranging the veterinary examination (with a list of authorized vets) and
  • Instructions for carrying out the training and submitting forms.


What does the veterinary examination include?

The authorized vet checks whether the dog has been vaccinated according to the law. He checks in detail the general state of health of the dog and assesses whether it is suitable for the work of a therapy dog. The examination also includes a parasitological examination of the dog’s faeces.


Can I choose myself the veterinary clinic where the dog’s veterinary examination will be carried out to obtain the certificate for therapy work?

No. The veterinary examination can only be carried out by one of the authorized vets with whom the Society already has an agreement. We cannot accept reports from other vets. Of course, you can continue to visit your usual vet with your dog but the regular half-yearly examinations must be carried out by a vet authorized by the Society.


How often must the dog have a veterinary examination?

Therapy dogs and trainee dogs must have a veterinary examination twice a year. Without a successful veterinary examination and appropriate veterinary report therapy dogs and trainee dogs are not allowed to enter institutions.


My dog is deaf/blind. Can he still be a candidate for work as a therapy dog?

No. So far the Society does not carry out visits with deaf/blind dogs.


How many visits must a trainee pair carry out? In which institutions? How is the training concluded?

The handler can begin the trainee period with his dog when he has obtained all the necessary documents and undergone the initial training session. In organizing visits the handler should take into account the following requirements:

  • The trainee pair must carry out at least 25 visits under the leadership of the mentor.
  • The visits must take place in at least three different types of institution, with at least 5 visits in each of them.
  • The list of institutions where we carry out various programmes of dog-assisted therapy is published on the Society’s website. (See the section Where  we work?)
  • The mentor helps the trainee in choosing the institutions and generally arranges the visits.
  • After (at least) 25 visits the trainee pair takes the final examination.
  • After successfully passing this examination, the dog and his handler are given the title of “therapy pair” by the Executive Committee. Only after this can they visit institutions independently.

Committed dog handlers usually complete all the trainee obligations in approximately one year.


What are the obligations of a handler/trainee during the trainee period?

The handler is bound to silence concerning the personal details of the clients. In addition he is obliged:

  • always to follow the instructions of the mentor and authorized professional staff in the institutions,
  • to respect the Society’s formal decrees and other potential instructions related to membership of the Society and the work of a trainee,


How should I prepare my dog before visiting an institution?

The handler must regularly attend to removing internal and external parasites. Prior to a visit, the handler prepares everything necessary (water for the dog, mat to lie on, therapy aids, etc.). When entering an institution the dog must be:

  • completely healthy,
  • clean and well-groomed (skin and fur, claws, paw pads, mouth and ears),
  • prepared for work with clients (toilet needs seen to, a short walk beforehand, etc.).


When is dog-assisted therapy carried out?

Most of the dog-assisted therapy work in institutions takes place during the morning.

If the handler simply cannot make visits in the morning, the trainee period will generally take a longer time, but is definitely not impossible. We usually do not work during the summer, because it is too hot for the dogs and organization would be difficult due to summer holidays.