Our Therapy Dog Program

Dire Wolf Project - DireWolf Guardian - Bonnie Lee - American Alsatian Dog
DireWolf Guardian - Bonnie Lee - Therapy Dog

 

A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and a sense of comfort to individuals in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas or court cases involving violence or trauma. Research suggests that interactions with therapy dogs can increase oxytocin levels (responsible for bonding) and dopamine (responsible for happiness) while lowering levels of cortisol (that comes from stress).

 

DireWolf Guardian American Alsatian Dog Training Program identifies three types of therapy dogs:

 

Therapeutic Visitation Therapy Dogs

Therapeutic Visitation Therapy Dogs are household pets whose owners take time to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities. Therapeutic Visitation Therapy Dogs are the most common type of therapy dog. The idea for a pet dog to become a therapy dog is made by the owner because he/she believes that either his/her dog would make a good therapy dog or because he/she would like to participate in this form of volunteer activity - or both. These dogs help individuals who must live away from home due to mental or physical illness. A visit from a Therapeutic Visitation Therapy Dog can brighten their day, lift their spirits, and help motivate them in their therapy or treatment with the goal of going home.

DireWolf Guardians does not specifically train Therapeutic Visitation Therapy Dogs. This type of training is the sole responsibility of each individual American Alsatian companion dog owner interested in pursuing therapy dog certification. DireWolf Guardians is happy to provide training support, but it should be noted that all training support and advice given by any staff member of DireWolf Guardians is merely a suggestion and is not to be considered binding or contracted through DireWolf Guardians in any way. Any training undertaken by the American Alsatian owner from the direct advice given by a staff member of DireWolf Guardians is at the owner's own discretion. DireWolf Guardians is not to be held liable for any training failures given by an American Alsatian owner at any time.

DireWolf Guardians does, however, certify dogs for Canine Good Citizen (CGC) as well as award Therapeutic Visitation Therapy Dog certification for those dogs who pass either the CGC or the C.L.A.S.S test. Periodic recertification is necessary to ensure continued Therapeutic Visitation Therapy Dog success. 

 

Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs

Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs assist physical and occupational therapists in meeting goals important to an individual’s recovery. Some tasks that these dogs can help to achieve include gaining motion in limbs, fine motor control, and hand-eye coordination. Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs typically work in rehabilitation facilities.

DireWolf Guardians has successfully trained an animal assisted therapy dog named Bonnie Lee. She was originally trained as a hearing dog, but was repositioned as a therapy dog due to unforeseen circumstances. After placement as a therapy dog, Bonnie Lee did not maintain active status through recertification and is, therefore, no longer active within DireWolf Guardians American Alsatian Dog Training Program. DireWolf Guardians American Alsatian Dog Training Program does train and place American Alsatian Dogs as Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs, but only upon appoved application and with the clear understanding that the certified Animal Assisted Therapy Dog remains the sole property of DireWolf Guardians at all times in active service until retired from the program in writing. 

Certified handlers of a DireWolf Guardian Animal Assisted Therapy Dog graduate must first submit an extensive application package with letters of support/recommendation. If the application passes, they are granted a telephone interview, approximately 45 minutes in length. If they pass that they are granted an in-person interview which can last between 4 and 6 hours. If they pass this, they report for two weeks of intensive training - with daily tests - both written and practical to assess the mastery of the material on an ongoing basis. Handlers must pass the public access test to graduate. This test is extensive and rigorous and involves having to think on one's feet in unpredictable situations. 

 

Facility Therapy Dogs

Facility Therapy Dogs primarily work in nursing homes, educational settings, or courthouses and are often trained to help keep patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental illness from harm or to reduce witness anxiety. They are handled by a trained staff member and live at the facility. 

DireWolf Guardians American Alsatian Dog Training Program does train and place American Alsatian Dogs as Facility Therapy Dogs, but only upon appoved application with courthouse partnership and with the clear understanding that the certified Facility Therapy Dog remains the sole property of DireWolf Guardians at all times while in active service until retired from the program in writing. 

Certified handlers of a DireWolf Guardian Facility Therapy Dog graduate must first submit an extensive application package with letters of support/recommendation. If the application passes, they are granted a telephone interview, approximately 45 minutes in length. If they pass that they are granted an in-person interview which can last between 4 and 6 hours. If they pass this, they report for two weeks of intensive training - with daily tests - both written and practical to assess the mastery of the material on an ongoing basis. Handlers must pass the public access test to graduate. This test is extensive and rigorous and involves having to think on one's feet in unpredictable situations. 

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