How we look after our amazing therapy dogs
I'm sure our dogs experience a range of emotions including happiness, anxiety, fearfulness and excitability. How they behave and their body language can help our tutors to understand what they are feeling and whether they are physically and mentally fit and healthy. Our tutors live with their therapy dogs and know the behaviour of their dog when it is fit, mentally stable and healthy and are able to recognise and understand the signals of when their dog may be worried, unsure, confused or happy.
CanineComprehension stipulates that our therapy dog's must be both mentally and physically fit to work with our clients. Tutors must create a safe working routine by:
- Ensuring that their dog can rest undisturbed when it wants to, including having a safe, low stimulus resting spot available in the working environment
- Creating a balance of reward and guidance for their therapy dog
- Ensure that clients are not left alone with their therapy dog
- Remove the dog from all stressful situations until they become more comfortable with the situation via time and training
- Provide walks and play breaks to reduce stress
- Always have fresh water available in sessions
- Present the dog with their favorite toys during breaks
Our policy is that we look after the most vulnerable individual in our class first. The most vulnerable is not our students - it is our dog. If we are able to put our dogs first, we know our students will be safe with the therapy dog. Tutors must be alert to the following to keep dogs dogs safe:
- The AAI dog’s body language, including their emotional state and level of arousal
- Proximity to potential dangers
- Eye contact
- Attention seeking behaviour
- Abnormal responses
Tutors are encouraged to remember that if an incident ever occurs:
- Remove the AAI dog from the situation when safe to do so (either to your car or a safe office)
- Re evaluate further possible risks
- Discuss safety breaches with client, if possible
- Ask yourself “am I acting as a reasonable or careful person would in this circumstances?”
- When the environment is secure, decide if the AAI dog can continue working. If not, finish the session early and take steps to look after your dog.
- Take detailed notes immediately after an incident, get witnesses names and contact details and write a statement in the relevant incident report document.
- Contact administration to discuss the incident and if further steps are required.
We take the welfare of our dog seriously and make sure our tutors are trained so we are able to be as risk averse as possible.
Take a look at our risk assessment for further details.