Want to give back to society together with Fido? We’ve got you covered with these four easy steps on how to become a therapy dog volunteer.
Four simple steps to becoming a therapy dog in Singapore.
studies have shown that therapy dogs provide both physical and mental health benefits to their beneficiaries. These animals have been known to stimulate endorphin production, lower blood pressure, reduce pain and promote relaxation in humans. Mentally, they help to reduce stress, uplift spirits, encourage communication and socialisation, comfort, and decrease anxiety and loneliness. A German Shepherd or even a Chihuahua can become one as long as it is at least a year old and has the right temperament. If you’d like to know how to go about registering your pooch as a therapy dog in Singapor, here’s a quick guide.
STEP 1: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you launch headfirst into signing Fido up as a therapy dog, it’s important to find out what this form of therapy entails. There are two forms of therapy: animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animalassisted activities (AAA). “Animal-assisted therapy is more structured and involves the use of animals as part of a treatment process. Animal-assisted activities is about creating an enjoyable experience for our beneficiaries, with the goal being to enhance the quality of life,” says Tzu Ying, a representative from SOSD’s Healing Paws Programme.
There are costs involved with becoming a therapy dog as well. “Application to become a therapy dog with Therapy Dog Singapore (TDS) costs $35, which includes a one-time membership fee, a TDS human t-shirt and dog bandana which is worn during visits, and a car decal,” shares Stephanie Ho, paw-rent of four-and-ahalf-year-old Duke Lee, a Samoyed that volunteers with TDS.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY FIDO’S TEMPERAMENT
As much as you’d like to make your pooch a therapy dog, your pup’s nature is very important. “Therapy dogs need to possess the 3Cs—be confident, calm and companionable,” shares Tzu Ying. A therapy dog needs to be confident as it would be placed in situations with many novel objects, sights and sounds. This ensures that it can handle any unexpected reactions during sessions. Calmness is also essential. When the dog is calm, it’ll be able to express itself in a relaxed manner and obediently take cues from either its handler or the situation. But most importantly, the dog has to be companionable. It should enjoy being around humans and meeting new people all the time. “Sable is extremely friendly and gentle with so much love to share. She’s the gentlest and friendliest dog I have ever met. She brings joy to strangers,” says Jamie Kloor, paw-rent of 10-year-old Sable, a Yellow Labrador that volunteers with Healing Paws.
STEP 3: BEHAVIOUR TRAINING AND ASSESSMENT
Once you have assessed that your pooch has the rigth temperament, it’s time for training and assessments to prepare him for his sessions. “The type of training and assessments can vary, depending on what type of therapy the dog is used for,” informs Tzu Ying. At Healing Paws, dogs are tested for sensitivity to sounds, moving objects, strangers and being touched.
At organisations such as TDS, all dogs have to undergo basic obedience training, preferably Good Canine Citizen or higher. “For dogs that have not undergone basic obedience training, TDS conducts a separate evaluation test to ensure that they are suitable as therapy animals,” says Nadine Lee, a representative for TDS.
STEP 4: CONGRATULATIONS!
All you have to do now is to sign up. According to Tzu Ying, there is no official certification to become a therapy dog in Singapore. TDS also does not require human and/or canine volunteers to undergo training and/or certification before volunteering with them. So all you have to do now is to sign up as a volunteer via the respective websites.
You’ll also have to set aside some time for these sessions. At Healing Paws, volunteers are encouraged to go for at least one session a month. Each session lasts between 30 minutes to one-and-ahalf hours, but it is often capped at an hour because it can be tiring for both the dogs and volunteers. At TDS, volunteers are expected to commit to at least four visits in six months with each session lasting an hour.
Sable with a patient
Justin Lee and Duke