THERAPY DOG TESTING F.A.Q.'S
Have a question? The answer is probably here!
Q1. What is Your Screening Test Looking For?
There are several considerations when determining if a dog is a good candidate for the program. Testing is not designed to be scary or stressful for you or your dog.
Our testing is designed to determine:
- Will your dog will ENJOYthe experience?
- Will your dog be SAFEin the environments we visit (around people, other dogs, hospital equipment, and unpredictability)?
- Will your dog be physically and emotionally COMFORTABLE enough doing what we are asking of them?
Examples of dogs that would NOT be a good fit for the program:
- dogs that are playfully "mouthy" when greeting someone.
- dogs that are not well-controlled on a leash and drag the owner to say hello to other people or dogs.
- dogs that give overenthusiastic greetings and cannot be controlled from jumping up when approaching new people to say hello.
- dogs that are "vocal" when meeting other dogs or people, even if not overtly aggressive.
- dogs that are uncomfortable, fearful, or aggressive when in close quarters with a number of other dogs/people.
- dogs that are often afraid of new situations.
- dogs that "take a while to warm up to people"
This does not mean that these are not great dogs, or that they can't be good candidates for therapy dog work in the future (after some training, and more time to mature for younger dogs). But it may mean that they aren't a good fit for our program right now. There are other area programs where dogs do not visit in close quarters or in groups that we may refer you to if your dog does well with people but not other dogs. Our program is very unique in the amount of dog-dog interaction we have, both in training and on visits.
Q2. Are there any preparatory classes before the screening test?
No. We highly recommend that you take at least one group training class (other than a puppy kindergarten class) before considering therapy dog testing. Also, consider the maturity level of your dog in a public setting. For example, Saoirse, an exuberant Dalmatian, had the necessary obedience skills to test into the program at the minimum age of 8 months, but not the maturity. The owner wisely waited until she was 18 months -- another year of maturity made a big difference in her ability to be in close quarters with dogs and people. Different dogs mature at different rates -- some very excitable dogs may not be ready for testing until they are a few years old. This is not a judgment on the quality of your dog or you.
Q3. Where is the test held?
At the Fidos For Freedom Training Center, 1200 Sandy Spring Road in Laurel.
We are located on the OPPOSITE side of the building from Pi's Deli. Please see "Find Fidos" for a map. Unless otherwise noted, all training and organizational events are held at our training center.
Q4. Can I use treats for my dog during the test?
- Yes, with certain restrictions during obedience testing only.
- The purpose of the obedience testing is to make sure that you have good control of your dog, and continuously feeding treats during testing would not allow us to reasonably assess this!
- No treats can be used during the "meet & greet" portion of the testing. You won't always have treats available to distract your dog from what he/she encounters on a visit, and we need to evaluate them without the distraction of food.
- For each minute of obedience testing, one small treat can be used:
- 6 foot recall - one treat at completion of exercise
- one minute stand-stay - one treat at completion of exercise
loose leash walking - one treat at completion of exercise, not as a lure
- two minute sit-stay - two treats
- five minute down-stay - five treats
Q5. Will I know immediately if my dog has passed the screening?
No. You will be notified by email or telephone within 24 - 48 hours following the test. Immediately after testing, the testers from all of the different sections (temperament, obedience, etc) will meet to discuss the results and notifications will not be made until the leadership has had a chance to evaluate all of the input.
Q6. My dog has passed the screening...what comes next?
After passing the therapy dog test, new teams will be required to complete the following before you are permitted to sign up for visits on your own:
- Attend the Handler's Class WITHOUT your dog to review all the ins & outs of Fidos. You do not attend any other classes or observations until you attend the Handler's Class. You don't have to let us know in advance which class you will be attending, but you must attend one of these classes to move on in the process
- Complete two observation visits WITHOUT your dog. [These can be selected from a number of different therapy visits]. These must be completed within 60 days of the handler's class (prior to Thanksgiving).
- Attend 4 specified training sessions for new therapy dogs on Wednesday nights at 6:30 pm WITH your dog.
- If you have a conflict with any of the training class dates, you must let Beth know prior to the date of testing to discuss if accommodations are at all possible. With fall testing, accommodations will be made for those observing Jewish holidays in October if needed. It is important to attend on these specific dates, because the classes that we do on these dates are NOT the same as the classes we do on other dates. We cover topics unique to new teams and situations you will encounter on your visits.
- All requirements (Handler’s class, 2 observation visits, 4 training sessions) should be completed within 60 days. Please see Beth if you have a scheduling issue and will not be able to complete your requirements within this time frame.
Final approval must be made by Beth before a team is entered in Volgistics. Once your team has been made an active therapy team (completed all requirements), Fran Glavan will become your primary coordinator.
Q7. I signed up for Fidos because I want to do the DEAR program with my dog. When can I do that?
- If you are interested in the DEAR program (Dogs Assisting and Educating Readers) or our visit to the Cedar Lane School – your team must have 6 months of experience as a Fidos therapy team unless approved by therapy dog coordinators. If you have completed 8 visits prior to 6 months, please contact Fran Glavan for special permission if you wish to participate. Depending on the temperament of your dog, early permission may be granted.
- To qualify for the DEAR program, your dog must complete a 15 minute down stay. Please see Beth Mittleman or Fran Glavan to be timed on your 15 minute down stay.
- To qualify for the Cedar Lane visit, a more extensive temperament test is required. Our Cedar Lane visit is with children that have high spectrum autism or severe developmental disabilities. Some children can be unpredictable in these situations, and not all dogs are good candidates for this visit. Please contact the therapy dog coordinators if you are interested in this visit and special screening will be arranged.
Q8. Can I visit my grandmother in the hospital in New York with my dog's Fidos I.D. ? Or visit a nursing home that's closer to my house but not on the Fidos list?
Fidos credentials are ONLY to be used on Fidos visits that you attend with other Fidos teams at approved Fidos facilities. This is non-negotiable.
We do all of our visits in teams of two persons and we only visit facilities that are pre-arranged through our coordinators and are reasonably local to our facility. There are other therapy dog programs in which you can visit a larger variety of facilities, such as Pets On Wheels or Therapy Dogs International, but Fidos does things differently. We have a stronger emphasis on continued training, and are known for having extremely well-behaved, social dogs wherever we visit. Our liability insurance is directly related to our high standards for our visits and that we always do our visits in teams of two people.
Fidos offers a sense of community that doesn't exist with other organizations in which you do visits on your own.
We are open to adding new facilities to our existing list, but it requires enough enthusiasm to have teams willing to sign up for the visit, and someone willing to act as coordinator with the facility. If you are that enthusiastic person, let us know.
Dogs are not to wear Fidos identification anywhere other than on a Fidos-approved visit. Doing so is considered a violation of the trust of the organization. Our insurance will not cover any incidents with your dog that are outside the scope of approved Fidos activity.
Q9. Why do some dogs have a therapy dog jacket? When does my dog get one of those?
The Fidos therapy dog jackets are earned by dogs that have been in full service as therapy dogs for a minimum of one calendar year (January 1 to December 31) and have met all their requirements. At our annual spring banquet, these dogs get "caped" and receive their jackets. It is a big honor. Because dogs must have been an active therapy dog for one full calendar year prior to the date of the banquet in order to become "caped", the length of time it takes may vary based on what time of year you joined with your dog (generally about 2 years). The jackets are expensive to make. Because we are a non-profit and we do not charge you for the jacket, they are earned through dedication to the organization. Special dispensation is granted to persons who have had a previous therapy dog with the program; successor dogs can be caped after 6 months (not at the banquet) or at the banquet following 6 months of service.