Everything is PAWSable Professional Therapy and Facility Dogs
Please note: we cannot train or certify your pet dog as a therapy or service dog. Due to liability issues, we can only place the dogs in our programs with approved applicants.
To qualify for a therapy dog, you must be a professional therapist, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist, social worker, or seeking a graduate degree in one of the above fields. Teachers and school counselors are welcome to apply as well if they have approval of school and district administration. Preference will be given to those in the Kansas City Region.
Professional Therapy Dogs or Facility Dogs are often handled by psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and educators. Unlike dogs that are handled by a volunteer, these hard-working therapy dogs work alongside of professionals to enhance their work. They work with a large number of different people on a daily basis.
A Professional Therapy Dog or Facility Dog is placed with a professional therapist or teacher in the community who partners with their dog in their professional practice. It is a common misconception that a therapy dog does “therapy” for their client. Rather, the therapy dog is a therapeutic partner in a professional setting. We place therapy dogs with students seeking a graduate degree in an Animal Assisted Social Work program, as well as professionals in the community who are already practicing therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and social workers. We also place therapy dogs in the educational setting where they are able to assist with anxieties, social situations, and provide both encouragement and reward for the challenges presented in an everyday school setting.
We choose our therapy dogs from among our dogs that may not qualify to become service dogs. At 18-24 months, the training team meets to decide which pups will continue on to advanced training for service dog work or move over to the therapy dog track of training. Typically, the reasoning centers around attention seeking behaviors, being distracted in public, or minor health concerns that may disqualify a service dog but would not affect the working life of a therapy dog. We look for dogs that love attention and affection from people, who are confident in their bodies and do not mind being handled and touched by many people, dogs that do not mind large crowds, dogs that are confident and comfortable around children, and dogs that do not have any resource guarding or aggression issues.
Therapy Dog Certifications are Insufficient for Professional Therapy Dogs
Most therapy dog evaluations were created for visitation programs. They were intended for use by volunteers who participate with their dog in either visitation or animal assisted therapy for a couple of hours a week. Compare this to the dog who spends 40 hours or more per week in a human healthcare setting interacting with patients next to a human healthcare professional.
Historically, most Professional Therapy Dogs and Facility dogs were trained and placed by service dog programs. The dogs undergo the same selection process and training that other service dog candidates have including extensive work on public access training, so the dog learns to be calm for long periods of time in complex environments. A minor health issue or training glitch resulted in the dog being “career changed” to work with a healthcare professional instead of directly assisting a person with a disability.
A Professional Therapy Dog or Facility Dog is not actually a service dog and in fact, many of the skills needed of these dogs are different. The dogs need to be able to quickly shift back and forth between responding to a patient and responding to their handler. There has been significant growth and interest by healthcare professionals, educators in Animal Assisted Interventions as well as public and private schools, colleges and universities.
Costs for Professional Therapy and Facility Dogs
Paws 4 Autism has invested well over 1000 hours of training in our professional therapy dogs. Thankfully, our sponsors and volunteers help to reduce our out of pocket costs for these amazing pups. We also recognize some of the challenges that YOU may face while trying to incorporate a professional therapy or facility dog into your practice, business, or classroom and have added options to assist.
Professional Therapy or Facility Dog: $10,000. Partial Grants are available for Schools & First Responders
Additional options can include:
Having the pup remain under the Paws 4 Autism liability umbrella which includes initial training and ongoing support of the handler and therapy dog team (up to 5 training hours per month). $300 per month paid quarterly
Inclusive package also adds food, yearly standard veterinary care and vaccines (with PAWS approved Veterinarian), Heartworm and flea/tick preventative as well as access to discounted durable training equipment and treats. $500 per month paid quarterly