Book Buddies policy and procedures
Guardian Whiskers’ therapy dog reading program, Book Buddies, provides opportunities for children to read to registered therapy dogs for the purpose of building motivation, focus, self-esteem, and task persistence while in a safe, secure, comforting environment.
Book Buddies Policy
Guardian Whiskers will offer a therapy dog reaching program under the direction of Guardian Whiskers staff with assistance of trained therapy dog volunteers (handlers) and their registered therapy dogs.
Prior to handler and dog functioning as a Guardian Whiskers therapy dog reading program team, the dog and handler will participate in an initial assessment and successfully complete therapy dog program training sessions. The handler and dog must be registered through Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners; meet Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners and Guardian Whiskers dog health requirements; and hold an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen (AKC-CGC) certificate. Guardian Whiskers views safety for all involved as the highest concern and may excuse any handler-dog team from the program at will.
All breeds except the following will be considered for the Guardian Whiskers therapy dog program: wolves, wolf hybrids, coyotes, and coyote hybrids (rabies vaccination is ineffective). Dogs considered to be an “at risk” breed (including but not limited to, Akita, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Pit Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Chow Chow, or Doberman) may be accepted into the program provided the dog and handler pass the initial therapy dog assessment and the handler provides the following: (1) Proof of effective, consistent positive reinforcement training from puppyhood or adolescence to current age, (2) Proof of ample knowledge of their dog’s breed, including specific needs and personality traits, (3) A complete history of the dog (health, housing, and objective observations of personality and behavior), and (4) A complete history of the dog’s socialization experiences (experiences with other dogs and experiences with unfamiliar people). Dogs will not be denied entrance into the Guardian Whiskers therapy dog program based solely on breed.
All dogs must be a minimum of one year old prior to any assessment and potential acceptance into Guardian Whiskers’ therapy dog reading program.
A “qualified trainer” is defined as an individual who has current professional certification as a trainer (KPA CTP, CPDT-KA, and/or CPDT-KSA preferred), an extensive working knowledge of the characteristics and personalities of a variety of dog breeds, a minimum of ten years of experience as a volunteer with his/her own registered therapy dog(s), and extensive experience teaching/mentoring therapy dog teams. Positive reinforcement training (pain-free, force-free, “do no harm”) techniques are the only acceptable form of training and handling allowed. Approval of an individual as a qualified trainer shall be determined by Guardian Whiskers, and, if desired, in conjunction with a therapy dog program consultant.
Book Buddies Procedure
All prospective therapy dog program volunteers must:
- Complete and submit Guardian Whiskers’ volunteer application and therapy dog program assessment application.
- Upon application for a therapy dog assessment, submit proof of the volunteer dog’s current, valid Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners membership or identification card. Current registration with either of the aforementioned therapy dog registries does not excuse the handler/volunteer and dog from any training listed in this policy. If the handler/volunteer does not have current membership in any of the aforementioned therapy dog registries, the handler must submit dog’s current, valid Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners membership or identification card once therapy dog training & testing is complete but before any visits on behalf of Guardian Whiskers take place. Handlers/volunteers must submit a copy of the volunteer dog’s current, valid Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners membership or identification card to Guardian Whiskers staff annually or as dictated by membership expiration date.
- Upon application for a therapy dog assessment, submit a copy of the dog’s American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen (AKC-CGC) certificate or test paperwork indicating a “PASS” result. AKC-CGC certificate must have been awarded within the last two years. AKC-CGC certification does not allow the handler and dog to forego any training listed in this policy. If dog has not achieved AKC-CGC certification upon application or more than two years has passed since initial certification, handler must submit a copy of the dog’s AKC-CGC certificate or test paperwork indicating a “PASS” result after the AKC-CGC test is complete.
- Upon application for a therapy dog assessment, submit documentation indicating the dog is current on rabies vaccination. After acceptance into the program, handler must provide documentation indicating rabies vaccination is current. A licensed veterinarian must sign documentation.
- Undergo and pass initial therapy dog assessment (dog and handler), administered by a qualified trainer and Guardian Whiskers staff, prior to the start of any therapy dog training sessions. After acceptance into the program, the therapy dog handler-dog team must be supervised for one observational visit annually or as dictated by #17 of this policy.
- Upon acceptance into the therapy dog training program, submit documentation indicating that a physical exam was completed within the last twelve (12) months. After acceptance into the program, dogs must undergo an annual physical exam and handler must submit documentation from a licensed veterinarian.
- Upon acceptance into the therapy dog training program, submit documentation showing a fecal worm check was completed in the last twelve (12) months. Fecal check must be negative. After acceptance into the program, dogs must undergo an annual fecal worm check and handler must submit documentation indicating a negative result from a licensed veterinarian.
- Upon acceptance into the therapy dog training program, submit documentation showing the dog is current on either the standard distemper vaccination or “five-way” distemper vaccination. A titer result indicating dog is immune is acceptable in lieu of distemper vaccination. After acceptance into the program, handler must provide updated documentation from a licensed veterinarian indicating distemper vaccination is current or titer results indicate immunity.
- Upon acceptance into the therapy dog training program, submit documentation of any other vaccination and/or test (i.e. heartworm) requirements as prescribed by his/her regular licensed veterinarian. Guardian Whiskers relies on the licensed veterinarian, who has extensive medical knowledge and a complete health history on the dog, to determine which vaccinations and tests are appropriate.
- Bear the costs associated with annual veterinarian exams, vaccinations, and/or any other procedures required to meet this program’s dog health requirements.
- Complete volunteer training in accordance with Guardian Whiskers policies.
- Attend therapy dog reading program handler/volunteer training (handler only).
- Participate in and pass AKC-CGC testing as administered by an AKC-CGC tester. Handler must submit a copy of the volunteer dog’s AKC-CGC certificate or testing form indicating a “PASS” result.
- Successfully complete Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners testing/observation requirements and obtain registry & maintain current membership with the affiliated organization. Handlers must meet annual membership and any additional requirements with their therapy dog registry of choice current to keep their liability insurance (provided by the therapy dog registry) in force. If handler/dog team is a registered therapy dog team with current membership in one of the national registries mentioned above prior to acceptance into this program, the handler/dog team must complete three observations with a qualified trainer in an environment suitable to test the dog’s practical visiting skills. Each observation must be a minimum of 25 minutes in length. Documentation of each observational visit, which includes date, time, length of visit, location, and a narrative of the type of interaction that took place, must be signed by the qualified trainer and placed in the handler’s volunteer file.
- Sign and abide by the therapy dog reading program volunteer job description.
- After acceptance into the program, the handler and dog must participate in one (1) supervised visit annually. (Exception: dogs with chronic joint or other health challenges must participate in one (1) supervised visit every six (6) months or at intervals deemed appropriate.) This annual supervised visit must be conducted by a qualified trainer or Guardian Whiskers staff; documentation of this visit, which includes the date, time, length of visit, location, and a narrative of the type of interaction that took place, must be placed in the volunteer’s file within one week of completion.
- Abide by all Guardian Whiskers volunteer policies.
- Participate in one meeting annually with qualified trainer and/or Guardian Whiskers staff with other therapy dog reading program volunteer teams for support, problem solving, and education.
- Grounds for immediate dismissal:
- Aggressive behavior on behalf of the dog, which can include but is not limited to, biting, snarling, growling, directed at humans and/or other dogs.
- Lack of motivation and/or desire on the part of the dog (determined by handler, licensed veterinarian, Guardian Whiskers staff, or qualified trainer).
- Violation of Guardian Whiskers policies, program behavior guidelines, and/or visit guidelines
- Violation of the handler’s therapy dog registry rules, regulations, policies, and/or guidelines or any actions that would render a volunteer ineligible for liability insurance provided by the therapy dog registry.
- Injury to program participants, Guardian Whiskers staff and/or volunteers, and/or any onlookers due to handler disregard of his/her therapy dog registry’s rules, regulations, policies, and/or guidelines, Guardian Whiskers policies, and/or visit guidelines.
- The above list is not inclusive; Guardian Whiskers, with input as needed from a qualified trainer, reserves the right to remove a handler-dog volunteer team for activities and/or infractions that are deemed harmful to Guardian Whiskers.
- Visit regularly with his/her registered therapy dog as defined by his/her therapy dog registry visit requirements. These visits are mandatory for Guardian Whiskers handler-dog teams to maintain current therapy dog registry, thus continued liability insurance coverage and continued inclusion in the Guardian Whiskers therapy dog program.
- Wait ten (10) days following any vaccinations received by the therapy dog if the dog is overdue for any required Guardian Whiskers therapy dog program-required vaccination before beginning and/or resuming visits. Day one begins on the day the dog receives vaccination.
- Not make visits if their dog exhibits any of the following: open sores, diarrhea, cough, sniffles, or eye conjunctivitis.
- Not make visits if their dog has a fresh surgical incision. All surgical incisions must be completely healed.
- Visit with his/her dog only when the dog is clean (free from ticks and any other external parasites), well-groomed, and has good oral hygiene.
- Visit with only one registered therapy dog on any visit. Under no circumstances may a volunteer handle more than one dog on a visit regardless of whether the handler has multiple therapy dogs registered through his/her therapy dog registry of choice.
- Participate with the registered therapy dog registered in his/her name. Volunteers may not visit with another volunteer’s registered therapy dog.
- Retire dog temporarily or permanently when dog becomes ill, injured and recovering from injuries, and/or recovering from any surgical procedure. Length of retirement shall be determined together by Guardian Whiskers staff and therapy dog volunteer in conjunction with a licensed veterinarian and/or qualified trainer. If parties involved do not agree on length of retirement or reasons for retirement, Guardian Whiskers will make the final determination. A supervised visit with Guardian Whiskers staff and/or qualified trainer must take place after return from temporary retirement to assure the therapy dog in question is appropriate and ready to resume visits. A letter signed by his/her regular licensed veterinarian clearing the dog for therapy dog work must be on file prior to resuming visits.
- Retire dog temporarily or permanently when dog exhibits behaviors inconsistent with a polite, calm, supportive visitor. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: greeting with paws off the floor, pulling excessively on leash, jumping on handler, consistent signaling of stress/anxiety. This list is not all inclusive; Guardian Whiskers staff, with input as needed from a qualified trainer, reserves the right to temporarily or permanently remove a therapy dog for behaviors that are deemed as safety risks and/or harmful to Guardian Whiskers. Once removed, the handler will be offered a training plan by the qualified trainer to help eliminate undesirable/unwanted dog behaviors using positive reinforcement training techniques. A supervised visit conducted by Guardian Whiskers qualified staff and/or qualified trainer shall take place within three months of delivery of training plan. Documentation of this supervised visit, which includes date, time, length of visit, location, and a narrative of the type of interaction that took place, must be placed in the handler’s volunteer file. Guardian Whiskers qualified staff and/or qualified trainer may clear the volunteer and therapy dog to resume visits if dog’s behavior has improved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
Guardian Whiskers staff and certified trainers will help you through the certification process, all you have to do to start is reach out by email, and let us know you’re interested.