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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I get certified by Caring Canines?
    The procedure for you and your dog to become a certified therapy dog/handler team with Caring Canines is: Complete our brief online application, Attend an observation visit by you to one of our group visits without your dog, Pass a successful evaluation of you and your dog as a team, and Complete three supervised training visits assisted by a Caring Canines mentor. More details of Caring Canines requirements can be found on our Join Us page.
  • What vaccines are required for my dog to volunteer?
    We require an up to date rabies vaccination record for all dogs. Dogs must have received their core puppy shots (distemper, parvovirus, and CAV-2). We also require that dogs be vaccinated annually for bordetella (kennel cough) and leptospirosis. These requirements are for the safety of our dogs and the patients we visit.
  • What commitment is required of volunteers?
    Caring Canines asks that each certified handler commit to eight visits per calendar year. We operate September through mid-June.
  • My dog and I are certified with another therapy dog organization. How do I transfer my certification to Caring Canines?
    Each therapy dog organization has its own standards and many do not operate with multiple dog visits. Each dog/handler team, regardless of previous certifications, must successfully complete the Caring Canines certification procedure.
  • I have two dogs that I would like to have participate in the Caring Canine program. How can I do this?
    Each dog must be evaluated separately and individually with the handler and also accomplish their mentoring visits individually. After certification, the handler can make visits with a single dog only. The handler only needs to make one guest orientation visit.
  • We have more that one person that would like to participate in the Caring Canines visiting program with our family dog. How can we do this?
    Because of the nature of our therapy work, a dog and handler in our organization is certified as a team and is considered an entity for working within the Caring Canines program. Two handlers may be certified separately with a single dog. With the exception of the guest orientation visit, each handler must accomplish the certification process separately and independently. Substitute handlers or dogs are not permitted.
  • I don't have an automobile. Can I participate in the Caring Canine program using public transportation?
    It is unreasonable to expect to participate in the Caring Canines program using public transportation. Although it’s possible to get to many Caring Canine visits by public transportation, it has been found to be exhausting both for the handler and the dog. The stress of the transportation activity causes the team to be too tired or too distracted to be an effective visiting unit.
  • Do I need to obtain special liability insurance to participate?
    No, you don’t. All Caring Canines Visiting Therapy Dogs activities are covered through our insurance policy. IMPORTANT POINTS REGARDING INSURANCE: Coverage is for the registered handler only and applies only while participating in a Caring Canines’ activity with the dog certified and registered with the handler. Handler must comply with the safety procedures in the Caring Canines’ visiting Guidelines to be qualified for coverage. Caring Canines’ insurance covers the handler only when participating in Caring Canines’ activities. It does not provide coverage for any independently scheduled or conducted visits unless handler receives prior approval from the Program Coordinator to conduct a visit on behalf of Caring Canines.
  • I do not have a dog. Can I still volunteer with Caring Canines?
    Regretfully, we very rarely have opportunities for volunteers without dogs. Our operational and administrative tasks are accomplished by volunteers who are also active dog handlers.
  • When do visits take place?
    Caring Canines conducts visits during the week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, generally in the early afternoon. Weekend visits are generally on Saturday mornings at 10:20 a.m. and on Sunday afternoons at 1:50 p.m. We do not have evening visits.
  • How long do visits last?
    Each visiting session begins with all of the team members gathering outside the facility for a ten-minute “meet and greet.” This time period affords each dog the opportunity to meet the other dogs and to settle in as a pack. The team enters the facility at the scheduled time (generally 10:30 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.) and will visit with, on average, 15 to 25 residents for approximately 35 minutes.
  • How are visits scheduled?
    Upon becoming certified, you will receive a schedule of visits each Monday by e-mail. The schedule will list the visits to the various facilities for the next several weeks, and you may request to be scheduled based on your selection(s) from this list.
  • May my child come with me on visits?
    After certification, children 10 years or older may accompany a dog/handler team on certain visits after prior approval by the scheduling team. However, many of our visits are at hospitals, schools and safe houses where children are never allowed to attend. For safety reasons during the visit the child is not be permitted to give the dog any instructions or commands and is not be permitted to hold the leash. Due to the limited involvement of the accompanying child our program is not suitable as a community service project for children. Also, only one youngster or visitor may join the visiting group of dog/handlers, and the visitor needs to be scheduled with the Caring Canines Scheduling Coordinator.
  • Can Caring Canines certify my dog to participate in another therapy dog program?
    Unfortunately, being an all volunteer organization with limited resources, Caring Canines is only able to offer therapy dog evaluation and certification to handlers applying to participate in our program. Our underwriter agreements allow for visits by certified handlers only within the Caring Canines program.
  • Where is Caring Canines' headquarters located?
    Caring Canines is an all volunteer organization which includes administration and operations staff. Caring Canines volunteers reside in the Boston metropolitan area and surrounding suburbs. All administrative and operational tasks are accomplished in volunteers’ home offices.
  • How do I train my dog to become a therapy dog?
    There are no quick and easy answers for developing a therapy dog. Personality and demeanor are significant factors in the dog becoming a useful visiting therapy dog, and many dogs just do not have adequate interest in the job to be successful or useful. This document gives a brief summary of what traits we look for and what traits may make your dog unsuitable for our program.
  • Is it ok to feed my dog a raw food diet?
    We recommend against a raw food diet because it can harbor bacteria that can be transferred from dog to human, resulting in human illness. This is especially true among the populations we visit, as many of them have weakened immune systems. If you do feed your dog a raw food diet, we request that you do it several hours before a visit and that you wash your dog’s muzzle before visiting. This is based on guidance from the CDC and Tufts vet school.
  • Who runs Caring Canines?
    Caring Canines is lead by an all volunteer Board of Directors.
  • How do I train my dog in the basics?
    The dog needs to be well socialized. Exposing a dog as much as possible to new sights, sounds, smells, other dogs and people of all ages will help your dog in becoming well socialized. The dog should have some basic obedience skills, and when learned, these skills should be part of the dog and handler’s daily activities so that they become second nature and a way of life.
  • Can you recommend a trainer?
    Caring Canines does not make referrals regarding trainers. There are dozens of volunteer teams active in the organization, each with its own individual training experiences. None of these associations are privileged to Caring Canines, only the results. There are many trainers and some training clubs in the Boston metropolitan area. There is also at least one major pet store chain that offers several canine training programs. Your veterinarian would also be a reliable source for referrals.
  • My puppy is very well-behaved and loves people. Can it become a therapy dog?
    Most puppies need to be at least 18 months old to have gained the maturity and stability required to be successful therapy dogs. They also need to develop the stamina and resistance to distractions that comes with maturity. Each dog matures at its own rate. Caring Canines does not make any exceptions to our minimum requirement of two years old. Unfortunately, it is our experience that most dogs younger than that fail their evaluation and need more time to mature and develop. Anticipating a new puppy to develop into a therapy dog in one year could well lead to disappointment. Also keep in mind that not all dogs will be interested in or enjoy therapy visits.
  • How can I select a puppy so that it can become a therapy dog?
    Basically one cannot select a puppy that will mature to a successful therapy dog. The puppy’s demeanor and interest in visiting when mature cannot be predicted. A reputable breeder should be intimately familiar with their litter and can recognize some general potentials, but the breeder is not able to predict an animal’s exact traits and interests at maturity. Solicit selection help from the breeder to the extent they are comfortable. During development and maturing, it is important for you to allow the puppy exposure to a wide variety of reasonable situations. These exposures should be for a frequency and duration long enough for you to identify an interest well beyond curiosity. It is then up to you to find ways for you and your dog to develop these interests and put them in service.
  • Can you recommend any other local therapy dog groups if my dog and I are not a fit for Caring Canines?
    Our links page has a listing of other Massachusetts based therapy dog programs.
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