Pet Therapy Training & Evaluations

What is a Paws & Think Therapy Team?

Paws & Think therapy teams consist of a Paws & Think volunteer, called a “handler,” and his or her Paws & Think registered therapy dog. Our handlers are passionate about sharing their dog’s love with others and are committed to ensuring that those interactions are positive for both their dog and the recipients. Our therapy dogs love spending time with people and are not nervous or scared around strangers or crowds. Paws & Think registered therapy dogs are not to be confused with other types of support dogs such as service, facility, or Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). Learn more about types of support dogs.

Paws & Think Registered Therapy Dog Requirements

  1. Your dog must be at least 1 year old.
  2. Your dog must live with you for at least 6 months before taking our class or evaluation.
  3. Your dog must go through a basic obedience class with you, preferably a group training using positive training techniques. Paws & Think does not allow dogs that have been instructed in protection, Schutzhund, or attack dog training.
  4. Your dog must be outgoing, happy, approachable, and eager to greet people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.
  5. Your dog must be friendly with other dogs and animals and have shown no signs of aggression toward other dogs or towards any types of people.
  6. Your dog must be up to date on all of Paws & Think’s required vaccinations, and you will need to provide a copy of all vaccination records.
  7. Your dog should not be fed a raw diet.
  8. You and your dog must pass the Paws & Think therapy skills evaluation every two years. Paws & Think provides dogs with disabilities the opportunity to take the evaluation and makes reasonable accommodations upon request.

Our goal is for all registered therapy teams to volunteer at a Paws & Think venue a minimum of 2 hours per month. Paws & Think partners with a variety of venues in Marion and the surrounding counties including healthcare facilities, schools, libraries, and more.

What are the steps to becoming a Paws & Think Therapy Team?

Step 1: Sign up to be a Paws & Think volunteer – Complete our online volunteer application and background check.

Step 2: Determine your dog’s readiness – Fill out the online form. You will then receive an email with a link to our online assessment tool for you to complete. The assessment takes about ten minutes to complete and helps us determine your dog’s readiness to become a therapy dog.

Step 3: Enroll in a training class and/or schedule your evaluation – Upon receipt of your completed assessment, Paws & Think’s Training Coordinator will contact you with our recommendation for the next steps for you and your dog, which may be to enroll in our therapy skills class, schedule a therapy skills evaluation, or take additional outside training.

Step 4: Attend a volunteer orientation – New volunteers are encouraged to attend a Volunteer Orientation within the first four months of joining Paws & Think. Click here to learn more.

Step 5: Attend a Handlers Training Class – After you and your dog pass the therapy skills evaluation, you will receive an invitation to attend our next Handlers Training Class. This training is required for new therapy teams to learn additional skills from more experienced Paws & Think volunteers.

Step 6: Shadow with a Paws & Think Therapy Team – As a new handler, you will be required to shadow without your dog at any of our regular venues prior to signing up to visit that venue with your dog. This allows you to be confident that you and your dog are a good fit for the environment and have the skills required.

Step 7: Congratulations – You are now ready to start volunteering with your Paws & Think registered therapy dog at any of our many venue partners in central Indiana! See a complete list of our current venue partners.

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