CCC – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How can my dog become a Comfort Caring Canine therapy dog?
In order for you and your dog to become a registered Comfort Caring Canine therapy dog/handler team, you must undergo a two-step process:
- Attend an Orientation – these are scheduled periodically (approximately once a month) at different locations in the Philadelphia area. At the orientation, a CCC member will explain our organization and how to become a member, plus they will show a video of our therapy dog evaluation. They will also answer any questions you have and, if you would like, will try to assist you in finding CCC members for an optional shadow visit. Note: do not bring your dog with you to the orientation.
- Evaluation – after attending an orientation, assuming your dog meets the age, training, and other requirement, the second step is for you and your dog to be evaluated as a team. The evaluation is conducted about four times per year by CCC evaluators and is designed to assess your dog’s temperament and obedience, as well as the level of “partnership” between you and your dog.
Our website provides additional information and will also show the schedule/location for orientations and evaluations. Note that evaluations require pre-registration and that CCC may limit the number of people to be evaluated at any one session.
- What are the requirements to become a therapy dog/handler team?
In addition to the above requirements, a CCC therapy dog must be healthy, well-groomed, up-to-date with inoculations (documentation required), currently licensed in the appropriate locality (documentation required), and at least one year old. The only requirement for the handler is that he/she is at least 18 years old.
- Can you train my dog to become a therapy dog? If not, can you recommend where to go for such training?
There is a difference of opinion about whether a dog can be “trained” to become a therapy dog, although we are aware of some dog trainers who offer “therapy dog training”. Our belief is that any dog can be a good therapy dog provided it has two things: 1) it was born with a friendly disposition and a personality that is suitable for interacting with all types of people, and 2) it has effective obedience training. If a dog is overly timid or aggressive, it would be difficult to make that dog into a suitable therapy dog through training.
If you believe your dog does have the appropriate temperament, then we require basic obedience training at a minimum. (This would not include “puppy” classes.) Such training must be by a professional dog trainer and is frequently offered at many pet stores. A certificate or other documentation should be given to you upon completion of the training showing that your dog successfully completed the course.
You should also consider coming to one of our orientation sessions to see how we evaluate the dogs. Our orientation schedule is posted on our website www.comfortcaringcanines.org.
- What other characteristics are found in a good therapy dog?
First of all, it is very important to have a well socialized dog. Proper socialization creates a relaxed, confident, and happy canine, one that is comfortable in a wide variety of environments. Socialization does not just happen; it takes a serious commitment on the part of the owner to expose the dog regularly to traveling in the car, interacting with people of all ages, other dogs, and to strange sights and sounds.
Therapy dogs destined to work in schools should be comfortable and confident with children. Likewise, therapy dogs who will be working in nursing homes and hospitals should be gentle with the elderly and ill, unafraid of medical equipment and assistive devices.
- Do you have therapy dogs available for adoption?
We do not have, nor are we aware of any organization that specifically has, therapy dogs for adoption. All of the therapy dogs in Comfort Caring Canines are members’ pets that had the personality to be good therapy dogs. We recommend looking in animal shelters for a dog that is calm, confident, enjoys interacting with people, gets along well with other dogs, and is not timid or aggressive. These traits are easier to assess with an adult dog as compared to a puppy, but the bottom line is there is no way to accurately predict if a dog could be a good therapy dog until you get to know their personality better.
- In what geographical area do your dogs make visits?
With a few exceptions, all of our members are located within the greater Delaware Valley area, including Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery counties. Since they are all volunteers and generally make visits to facilities that are convenient to their homes, our visits are generally in the southeastern PA area.
- I would love to have a therapy dog come visit the residents in our facility, but we are not located in the southeastern PA area. Can you tell me what therapy dogs might be available in the area where our facility is located?
It is difficult for us to be aware of all therapy dog organizations outside the geographic area we service. The following list contains several groups that serve a broad geographic area and may be able to help you narrow down your search:
Therapy Dogs International
Therapy Dogs Inc.
Angels On A Leash
If you do an on-line search for these organizations it should lead you to their websites.
- My elderly parent lives with me and would love to have a visit from a therapy dog. Could you come to my home for a visit?
Our organization primarily visits hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, but we also participate in school reading programs and “de-stressing” visits to local universities. Usually we do not visit individuals in a residential setting.
There are two main reasons for this. First and foremost is the safety of our members. Going to an unfamiliar individual’s home is an unknown and potentially risky activity, which we will not ask our members to do. Secondly, due to the greater number of requests for therapy dog visits than we have dog/handler teams, we have to choose to make visits where the greatest number of people can benefit from the visit. This limits them to institutional settings, as described above.
- I don’t have a dog but would like to offer my services to your organization. Do you have any volunteer opportunities?
Thank you for offering your services, but we do not have any opportunities for volunteers other than our therapy dog/handler teams.
- I am interested in pursuing pet therapy as a career. Can you provide any advice as to how to do this?
Unfortunately, we have no advice to offer you. Our members are all volunteers who enjoy sharing their certified therapy dogs with others who can benefit from their visits. We are not familiar with any opportunities for pet therapy as a career, but perhaps there is information from Therapy Dogs International or Therapy Dogs Inc. Both of those organizations have web sites and may be able to point you in the right direction.
- My dog has its Canine Good Citizen certification from the AKC. Must I still show documentation that my dog attended an obedience class?
No. CCC will accept the Canine Good Citizen certificate as proof your dog was properly trained in obedience.
- I obedience-trained my dog myself. Must I still show documentation that my dog attended an obedience class?
With the exception noted in the answer to #11, we require the completion of one formal training class in Obedience. This training is commonly available at such places as kennels, dog training organizations, and some pet stores. There is no restriction regarding where you have the dog take the training, as long as it is a formal class, lasting at least 6 weeks (one hour per week), and you receive a certificate or other documentation that your dog completed the training. “Puppy” classes do not qualify.
- My dog was certified as a therapy dog through another organization. Must we still go through your evaluation to become a CCC therapy dog?
Yes. Our two-step process to become a CCC therapy dog/handler team is 1) attend a CCC orientation, and 2) pass our evaluation of dog and handler. Since other therapy dog organizations have varying requirements, which may not be equivalent to our requirements, we feel it is important for you to follow our process to join CCC.
- My facility would like to have one or more therapy dogs visit our residents. When can they begin?
We appreciate your interest in having therapy dogs visit your facility and we will try our best to accommodate your request. Our Facilities Coordinator will be notified of your request and she will then inform all our members. If a member is interested in visiting your facility, they will contact you directly to make the arrangements. However, please keep in mind that CCC is a group of volunteer members who enjoy sharing their wonderful therapy dogs with others. Unfortunately, we have many more requests for visits than we have members. In addition, as volunteers our members can choose where and when they want to visit. As a result, not every facility who requests a visit will get one.
- How do I request CCC therapy dog visits at my nursing home facility?
You should complete a Visitation Request Form (available on our website www.comfortcaringcanines.org) and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then begin the process of notifying our members of your request.
- I would love to have my dog be a CCC therapy dog but I am on a limited income. Is it costly to become a therapy dog/handler team?
There are very limited expenses involved in joining CCC, such as a one-time fee of $30 when the dog is evaluated and annual membership dues (currently $25). The only other possible expense would be to take the dog to obedience class, if it hasn’t already been to one, which we require for our therapy dogs. Those classes can be taken anywhere of your choosing.
- My 14 year old daughter would like to do therapy dog work with our dog, although I would accompany her on the visits. Would this be OK?
It is required that the handler be at least 18 years of age. Therefore, your daughter could not be the handler. Your child or other family member may accompany you, the handler, during a therapy visit (assuming it is acceptable to the facility) but the dog must remain under your control at all times.
- I want to get a puppy to eventually become a therapy dog. What breed do you recommend?
Comfort Caring Canine therapy dogs come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds (some pure and some mixed). The suitability of a dog depends more on the individual dog rather than a particular breed. You should look for a puppy that is friendly, curious, intelligent, and easy-going with people and other dogs. You should be aware, however, that puppy behavior is not necessarily an accurate prediction of the dog’s temperament as an adult. For that reason, you may want to consider adopting an adult dog with the desired characteristics.
- I am interested in getting my dog certified as a therapy dog to work in my mental health practice.
We do not permit members to use their therapy dogs in their place of business under the sanction of CCC and under our insurance coverage. While you would be free to take your dog to your practice, such activity would not count as meeting the annual requirement of at least 6 visits and would not be covered by our insurance.