|Barked: Wed Apr 22, '09 11:26pm PST |
|Good evening, this topic GREATLY concerns me, as I have been an active animal assisted therapy dog handler for about 3 years now (although I'm not practicing/volunteering at the moment). Point is animal assisted therapy is a practice that is very near and dear to my heart. I am a passionate advocate of it done correctly, with care, and with utmost responsibility for the safety of clients, patients, and dogs, and it kills me when I see a team that is incompetent.
I have a friend/roommate who shall remain anonymous for the sake of this post. Her dog is certified through the Delta Society, supposedly one of the most "prestigious private organizations that certifies therapy dogs and also actual service dogs. " It costs like $400 to do the certification through them! And what a rip off....
My friend says the test was VERY easy (I'm not sure of the details but it doesn't sound like they did much of a temperament test. It was more like sit, down and stay and that's it! Take even the most hyper out of control dog for a 4 hour hike before the test and I think even it would have passed!).. as the dog in question has since being certified, growled at me when I put my face near him on more than one occasion, been aggressive toward the maintenance person in our house (lunging, barking, teeth bared), has been dog aggressive on many occasions (protecting his guardian's partner who i would call his secondary guardian.. this is new it started happening when he reached 2 years old- the result of an adolescent who has NOT been taught his place in the pack) when encountering other dogs on walks and hikes, and resource guarded against my dogs (we recently moved in together). What irks me further is that their previous roommates had reported that the dog had growled at them too, before or around the time he was certified as a therapy dog.
Although I STILL can't quite wrap my head around why the guardian (my friend and roommate) did not seek out a professional trainer regarding both their dogs (lack of) training before we moved in together (I raised a big stink about it and gave them a lot of pointers and to their credit, they are doing well and are stepping up to the plate regarding discipline and boundaries and their dogs are both improving -- But that doesn't detract from the fact that Delta Society is HIGHLY at fault for certifying this handler and dog team, inherently stating that they were competent and qualified enough to be doing animal assisted therapy when the dog is clearly unbalanced. ARE CLIENTS POTENTIALLY IN DANGER? I think so. IS THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY DOG TEAMS AT RISK FOR HAVING THE PRACTICE TARNISHED / BANNED AT WORSE? I THINK SO, if this is Delta Society's standard of practice!!!!! To them, obviously it was all about the money.
I had both of my dogs certified through the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. The test they use is the CGC for discipline (10 parts) in addition to a 10 part temperament test. The dog must pass all 20 exercises. The program and certification through them is either free or nearly free. The first time I took the test with my first dog, we failed (as I'm pretty sure all 5 other teams in our group did, based on the humans' facial expressions leaving the training facility). The head testing person states that only 20% of dogs pass the test their first time taking it. The one exercise my dog didn't meet standards on was the "allowing a stranger to hug him" (he did not growl like my roommate's dog did) but he did squirm away and jump up and push the handler away with his paw. I spent the next YEAR asking qualified strangers at doggie bakeries and the like to hug my dog while I praised and treated him and the next year, we were prepared. I had since gotten a second dog who passed with flying colors as did my first. It actually took awareness and ACTUAL training and ACTUAL temperament conditioning, which I am lead to believe Delta Society does not require!
The ridiculous part is that my friend and her dog went to Boulder Humane Society in hopes of acquiring certification through them too since it was free and the folks over there were like "oh well waive your test requirements because you're already certified through Delta and WOW you must be REALLY GOOD to have a Delta Dog Society certification!!
If only they knew.
Edited by author Wed Mar 17, '10 5:25pm PST