Selection Criteria for Visiting or Working Dogs

  1. leashDogs must have suitable temperament and behavior. This includes being friendly, gentle, obedient, responsive to the commands of the handler, and happy interacting with the residents and staff of the facility. Dogs also need to be calm around the objects, noises, and general environment of the facility which includes wheel chairs, walkers, canes, housekeeping carts, vacuum and floor cleaners, odors, and food that may be left out. Dogs also need to be comfortable with the vocalizations and strange or irregular movements of the residents.
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  3. Dogs must be in good health. It should be on a wellness program with a veterinarian and current on all immunizations. Facilities should keep copies of these records on file for each visiting or working dog and update them as necessary.
  4. Dogs must be clean and well groomed. This includes bathing within 24 hours of the visit, making sure nails are trimmed short and teeth brushed, and also making sure the dog is free of fleas and ticks. Dogs should not have flea collars, flea powders, or chemicals on their coats during visits.
  5. If possible, dogs should be registered with one of the national organizations that  officially tests and evaluates therapy dogs.
  6. Puppies under 6 months of age SHOULD NOT VISIT. This is due to immaturity,  unpredictable behaviors, and zoonotic reasons.
  7. Limit visits of visiting dogs to one hour, gradually working up to that amount of time over a few visits.Working dogs should also be gradually acclimated to the amount of time they will spend in the facility. The LTC environment is stressful for animals for many reasons, including temperature, sights, smells, sounds, emotions, etc. Staff and volunteer handlers should be familiar with the signs and symptoms dogs exhibit  when they are feeling stressed.