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Frequently Asked Questions

Could you define some of the important words you use on your website, such as “team” and “certified” and “handler”?

Team: The dog and person who volunteer together to make therapy dogs dog visits to a wide range of programs and facilities.

Handler: The volunteer human who goes through the certification process with his or her dog in order to make therapy dogs dog visits to a wide range of programs and facilities.

Certified Therapy Dog Team: Each TDV team (dog and handler) go through an extensive screening, evaluation and training process in order to become “certified”—that means, sanctioned by the Therapy Dogs of Vermont organization to volunteer as part of TDV in order to make therapy dogs dog visits to a wide range of programs and facilities.

What’s the difference between a test and an evaluation?

TDV certification, which allows dogs and their owners to make volunteer therapy dog visits in our communities, happens in two phases, The “test” is the first phase in our certification process. If a candidate meets all of our requirements at the testing phase, he or she moves on to phase two, which we call “evaluations”. There are three to five evaluations, which are supervised visits to facility (usually a nursing home or elder care center) with one of TDV’s evaluators. After a team completes all of the required evaluations, then the team is granted certification and able to make therapy dog visits as part of TDV.

What’s the difference between a therapy dog test and a Certification Prep Clinic?

The test is the first part of our certification process (see “What’s the difference between a test and an evaluation?”). The Certification Prep Clinic is a two-hour class (for dogs and their owners, though it is possible to audit the class without a dog) that TDV offers to anyone who wants to learn more about becoming a therapy dog team and get some preliminary training with their dog. The Certification Prep Clinic is not a pre-requisite for testing, though it is highly recommended as an opportunity to learn about certification and ask questions, as well as experience the testing process and get some training with your dog.

Read more about the Certification Prep Clinic here.

How do I get my dog registered or certified to become a therapy dog with TDV?

Please go to this page to read all about the process and requirements for becoming a therapy dog.

Do I need to attend a Certification Prep Clinic in order to be certified?

No, the clinic is not required for certification. If you think you and your dog are ready for certification and you meet the minimum requirements, you can apply to be tested. Please go to this page to read all about the process and requirements for becoming a therapy dog.

I'd like TDV to help me with my student project or volunteer hours for a school or community program…

Unfortunately, TDV made a difficult decision recently that we will no longer be able to support the many requests we receive from students who turn to our organization to support them with school-related community projects. TDV’s all-volunteer teams and leadership are focused on realizing several strategic planning initiatives so that the organization can meet the enormous demand for therapy dog visits throughout the state.

How can I learn about what Therapy Dogs of Vermont does?

There are a several ways you can learn about TDV and therapy dogs:

  1. Attend one of our Certification Prep Clinics. You can read about these at Certification Clinics. These are wonderful opportunities to learn about certification and ask questions, as well as experience the testing process and get some training with your dog.
  2. Attend a community presentation or event. These are offered at various times throughout the year—appearances that TDV will be making are listed on our events page.
  3. Observe a therapy dog test. These are offered monthly around the state and we welcome a limited number of observers. E-mail us if you’d like to arrange to observe a test
  4. Check out our helpful resources section of the website for more information on Therapy Dogs.

Where is Therapy Dogs of Vermont located? Why can’t I visit your office?

TDV is able to serve our members and communities across Vermont—while keeping our costs reasonable—by keeping operations “virtual”. Thus, by partnering with other resources across the state for places to give presentations, test and evaluate dogs, etc., we are able to serve many more communities. In other words, we are not limited to a brick and mortar location and are free to serve people where we need to.

I don’t see phone numbers on your website? Is there a number I can call to reach Therapy Dogs of Vermont?

TDV is largely a volunteer organization which has chosen not to function from a brick and mortar homebase—this allows us to remain accessible across Vermont and to many people who need us. Given that we do not have an office, our volunteers are able to satisfy many more requests for information and support most quickly through electronic means such as our website and email. We are available by e-mail and you can apply for TD testing through the Web site. If you need someone to call you, please contact us through email (or have a friend send us an email for you) with your request and leave us a phone number and good time to reach you, as well as the nature of your request so that we can route it to the appropriate volunteer.

Why don’t you certify animals other than dogs, like cats?

While we recognize that animals of all types can bring joy and comfort to people, certifying animals other than dogs is not within TDV’s mission and expertise.

Why don’t you certify dogs who are on raw meat diets?

Due to infection control and health reason, and based on research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we adopted our policy regarding raw meat (as opposed to raw vegetable) diets. We do allow dogs who are being fed cooked versions of this diet. Since therapy dogs visit people who may have compromised immune systems, this policy is critical to their safety and health.

I need to get my dog recognized as a support or service dog for my personal needs. Can TDV do that for me?

We’re not able to provide any documentation or certification for dogs who will serve in this role; TDV’s mission is to certify dogs and their owners only for the purpose of allowing people to volunteer in their communities by visiting others with their therapy dogs. Currently, we do not know of any organization in the Vermont area which provides this service. You might be able to do an internet search on “Animal Assisted Therapy”, or contact the State of Vermont to see if they have any answers for you. For more about the differences between therapy dogs and personal support dogs, please visit Therapy Dogs vs. Service Dogs.

I’m not in Vermont—how do I get my dog certified as a therapy dog?

If you are not in Vermont or close by in NY, NH, or Canada, we recommend that you search online using the term “therapy dog” and the state in which you live.

How is a therapy dog different than a service or support dog? What does a therapy dog do?

Assistance dogs and Therapy dogs are two forms of highly trained dogs that work to improve the lives of people. Although both types of these working dogs have an amazing impact on the lives of their humans their roles are very different.

The term assistance dogs, is used to describe a variety of working dogs that assist their handlers with everyday activities, while also enhancing their quality of life and providing the means necessary for a sense of independence and freedom. There are three main subtypes of assistance dogs. The most wellknown and original role of the assistance dog is the guide dog. This type of assistance dog has been formally trained by organizations and placed with individuals for over 70 years. Guide dogs are trained to help their blind or visually impaired handlers navigate the world around them. The second form of assistance dogs are hearing dogs. These dogs are able to alert their deaf or hard of hearing owners to dangers, alarms, important noises, and perform many other vital tasks. The third form of the assistance dog is known as a service dog. Service dogs are specifically trained for individuals with a variety of other physical or mental disabilities. Service dogs can range from mobility dogs that assist individuals in wheelchairs, to autism service dogs and dogs that help those suffering from PTSD. Assistance dogs are guaranteed legal access to all public places that their owners go.

Therapy dogs have been providing comfort, support, and love to patients in hospitals, nursing home residents, school children, and many other people in need, for over one hundred years. Today the use of therapy dogs is also known as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal Assisted Activities (AAA). AAT is a “goal directed intervention” where animals are used to assist in a specific treatment program of a patient. These animals are highly trained and work with professionals within their profession, such as in conjunction with therapists or doctors. In contrast, animals involved in AAA programs are pets of volunteers that visit with patients. These animals must also be highly trained to act appropriately and behave in these working conditions. Unlike AAT animals, they do not take part in a specific treatment program. All therapy animals however provide support, comfort, social experiences, and love. These therapy dogs are able to visit different facilities that allow scheduled visits. Unlike Assistance dogs, they are not guaranteed legal access to all public places and their visits must be approved.