Have a question? The answer is probably here!
- What is your screening test looking for?
- Where is the test being held?
- What do I bring to the test?
- Can I give my dog treats during the test?
- What is the test like?
- Will I know immediately if my dog has passed the screening?
- My dog has passed the screening...what comes next?
- What are my requirements for remaining an active member of Fidos with my dog?
- I signed up for Fidos because I want to do the DEAR program with my dog. When can I do that?
- 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?
- Why do some dogs have a therapy dog jacket? When does my dog get one of those?
What is Your Screening Test Looking For?
There are several considerations when determining if a dog is a good candidate for the program.
Our testing is designed to determine:
1) Will your dog will ENJOY the experience?
2) Will your dog be SAFE in the environments we visit (around people, other dogs, hospital equipment, and unpredictability)?
3) Will your dog be physically and emotionally COMFORTABLE enough doing what we are asking of them?
The dogs in our program are good-natured, obedient and well-mannered.
Testing is not designed to be scary or stressful for you or your dog!
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 awhile 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 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!
What do I bring to the test?
- A $50 non-refundable testing fee. Cash or check payable to Fidos For Freedom, Inc. (We do not have the ability to accept credit cards). Please consider whether you are able to make the scheduling commitments, as we are unable to refund testing fees for this reason.
- A 6 foot leash (no retractable leashes please at the Fidos facility).
- A brush or comb for your dog.
- Completed forms (waiver, volunteer information, photo release, contact information sheet, veterinary form - found on the following pages).
- Wear closed-heeled shoes for the testing--no clogs, flip flops, or open-backed sandals are allowed on the training floor. This is not only true for the test, but at all times.
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:
one minute stand-stay - one treat
loose leash walking - one treat
two minute sit-stay - two treats
five minute down-stay - five treats
What is the test like?
The test is divided into four sections:
1) Temperament Test
The first thing we will do with the dog is take them away from you into a separate room to interact with two volunteers. It will likely be the only time you will be separated from your dog while at Fidos! The dogs will be petted, have their feet and ears touched, gently brushed (with the brush you bring for your own dog), be given toys to play with if they are interested in doing so, etc. It's a relaxed environment to ensure that the dogs are comfortable being handled by new people. Don't worry, we'll have time later to see how your dog interacts with strangers when they're with mom or dad.
What we're looking for: absence of fearful behavior or aggression. It's normal for some dogs to be a little bit nervous away from you, and that's okay, but dogs should not be so overly anxious that they can't focus on other things enough to interact with our volunteers. Dogs that growl or hide from the volunteers, or dogs that are uncomfortable being handled will not be good candidates for the program.
2) Obedience Test
- 1 minute visiting stand stay
- 2 minute sit stay
- 5 minute down stay
- Loose leash walking (Dog heels, no pulling on leash)
- 6 foot recall on a leash
This isn't designed to be an AKC obedience trial -- during the testing, you can pet and talk to your dog (for example, you can sit in a chair next your dog for a down stay or kneel down for a stand stay if you need to do so). And treats are allowed if you need to use them to focus your dog for longer tasks. Your dog must pass 3 of the 5 obedience tests on the day of testing to move on in the process. Dogs have 60 days to pass the remaining requirements. During this time they'll attend the Fidos training classes--you'll be amazed how much they pick up from the other dogs on what behavior is expected of them. Note: Passing 3 of the 5 tests does not guarantee admission into the program--dogs should be VERY close to passing all 5 tests.
What we're looking for: to see if your dog is well-trained and calm enough to remain still for a stranger to pet them, and if they can be controlled in new environments when we need them to wait quietly. Don't despair if your dog doesn't pass the obedience section; it does NOT mean that they won't make an excellent therapy dog! A dog that isn't ready to pass this time might be ready after an obedience class or two. It is MUCH harder for a dog to pass these skill tests in the facility with so many new things and smells than it is for them to do it in the living room.
Recommended: Practice with your dog in lots of new places to get him/her used to working around distractions!
3) Meet & Greet
You and your dog will be walked through a few introductions to new people, dogs, and experiences to see how you work together as a team, and to see how your dog reacts to new experiences.
What we're looking for: how you and your dog interact as a team, your awareness of what your dog is doing while you are paying attention to people and other things, how your dog responds to new or strange experiences (do they recover quickly, become aggressive, or become overly frightened?)
You will have time to sit down with a few volunteers in order that we might get to know you better, and so that you can ask any questions you might have.
What we're looking for: To get to know you! And to make sure you understand the time commitment involved in becoming a therapy dog team with Fidos. We do things differently, but that's what we all like about our organization.
Will I know immediately if my dog has passed the screening?
My dog has passed the screening...what comes next?
After passing the therapy dog test, new teams will be required to complete the following tasks before you are permitted to sign up for visits on your own:
- Attend the Handler's Class to review all the ins & outs of Fidos. Dates are listed on the front page. You attend without your dog. You do not attend any other classes or observations until after you go to 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. DATE: MAY 9th.
- Complete two observation visits [these can be selected from a number of different therapy visits, and you go without your dog. These must be completed within 60 days of the handler's class (prior to Thanksgiving).
- Attend 4 training sessions on Wednesday nights at 6:30 pm. These sessions MUST be on Wednesday nights at 6:30 pm. We have scheduled those dates on May 16th, May 23rd, May 30th, & June 6th. If you have a conflict, with any of the training class dates, please let Christy know prior to the date of testing to discuss if accommodations are 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 should be completed within 60 days. Please see Christy if you have a scheduling issue and will not be able to complete your requirements within this time frame.
ONCE YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN MADE AN ACTIVE THERAPY TEAM, FRAN GLAVAN WILL BECOME YOUR PRIMARY COORDINATOR. WHILE YOU ARE STILL IN THE TRAINING PHASE, CHRISTY WILL BE YOUR PRIMARY CONTACT PERSON.
What are my requirements for remaining an active member of Fidos with my dog?
- Complete 8 therapy dog visits over the course of the year.
- Attend one training session and one non-public event every month with your dog (total 2 training events). Non-public events include agility classes held at Fidos, parties held seasonally, and meetings held occasionally. For training, teams are required to attend the Wednesday 6:30 pm class unless otherwise specified.
- You will note that other classes are being held. There is a second class on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm and a class on Saturday mornings at 11:00. These classes are geared toward our clients and our assistance dogs in training, not the therapy dogs, and are too advanced for many of the therapy dogs. Dogs that are great therapy dogs may simply be too high energy and potentially disruptive in an assistance dog class. Please speak to the therapy dog coordinators (Christy and Fran) if after passing your qualifications and starting visits, you have a need to attend a different class as a make up or for other reasons. Permission may be granted on a case by case basis by the therapy dog coordinators and assistance dog training staff (Pat, Mary).
- There will be times that you are required to come on Wednesday evening and this should still be considered the main training class day. If you are unable to come on Wednesday nights at all, Fidos will unfortunately not be a workable program for you.
I signed up for Fidos because I want to do the DEAR program with my dog. When can I do that?
- For those of you who are interested in the DEAR program (Dogs Assisting and Educating Readers) or our visit to the Cedar Lane School--teams must have 6 months of experience to be eligible for these visits unless otherwise approved by the 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 Christy 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.
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.
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 a bit 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 coordinate the visit 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.