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As a teacher (or health care professional) can I take my dog to work with me?

Sadly no. We get many requests of this nature, particularly at the beginning of a new school term.

Unfortunately, due to insurance restrictions, we are unable to permit volunteers to use their dog in the course of their employment. You would therefore not be able to use your own dog during the course of your teaching/sessions.

As a volunteer your primary responsibility is to that of your dog and you are unable to do this if you are running a class or therapy session. If there was an emergency and the school had to be evacuated, as a volunteer you would be responsible for the dog but as a teacher you are responsible for the children and therefore the welfare of either would be compromised.

Can I join the Paws & Read programme straight away?

Many new volunteers are keen to visits schools with their dogs. Whilst we positively encourage this, we ask that all new volunteers gain a minimum of 3 months regular visiting at another establishment prior to enrolling on the Paws & Read programme. It is important to see how a dog and volunteer settle into a visiting routine. Schools are busy, noisy places and the dog needs learn to trust their handler. A first visit to a school can be very overwhelming. Just because Fido is great with grandkids doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to visit with school children.

I’m all signed up, am I now on my own?

Not at all.  In many cases you will be put in contact with a local Area Team Leader (ATL) or Regional Mentor (RM) who will answer any questions and give you tips and tricks.

Many ATLs or RMs will try and accompany you on your first visit, introduce you to the establishment contacts and help you settle in.

Occasionally this may not be logistically possible and please remember out ATLs are volunteers too.  You may be happy to start your visiting without the support of a mentor and that’s alright too.

How long will my visit last?

There is no set time for a visit as all situations are different.  Some people visit for an hour, others for several hours.

Please ensure that the establishment are aware of how much time you can offer.  If visiting schools for Paws and Read, please take the Kennel Club’s Bark & Read standards of practice into account (paragraph 1.5)

How do I arrange my first visit?

When you become a volunteer, you may have an idea of the sort of establishment you would like to visit in which case we are happy for you to contact them directly.

If you need help or ideas, you can contact our Placement Officer who often has a list of establishments waiting for a visiting volunteer.  Your ATL or RM will also be able to help.  They are usually on the end of the phone to answer any queries and often will try to accompany you on your first visit, so you know what to expect.  Our volunteers make arrangements directly with the establishments.

How often should I visit?

This is entirely up to you.  If you are only able to offer one afternoon a month, that is fine.  Some people visit weekly or twice weekly, again this is fine.

All we say is, if you say you will visit every week, please don’t then visit once a month.  People really look forward to our visits and understandably are sad when we do not attend.  We know to expect the unexpected but please be realistic with your commitment.

Where can I visit?

Therapy Dogs are associated with a vast range of establishments.  More commonly seen in schools or residential homes, we also visit hospitals, hospices and prisons.

We are increasingly being asked to visit large corporations as part of their Staff Well-being Programmes to reduce stress in the work place.  You may be contacted by our Placement Officer who has a special request for a visiting dog.  You are not obliged to attend, in fact, we would far rather you say that it was not for you than for you to attend and not enjoy it.

Some people have very specific ideas where they do and don’t want to visit.  Careful consideration needs to be given to not only your own limitations but also that of your dog.  New volunteers don’t necessarily think about the bigger picture.  For example, getting close to people in nursing homes, who then pass away, could be distressing.

Please really think about what type of establishment will suit you (as well as your dog), and what possible downsides there might be.  If you go into a psychiatric ward, people may be shouting and/or swearing, and you might be asked to wear an alarm or if you undertake visits to prisons, you will not be able to take anything in with you, including mobile phones, so you will not be contactable, should you need to be.

The establishment have asked for DBS check?

Some establishments ask for a DBS for any one that visits them.  You do not need to inform the TDN office as the establishments will have the facility to do this for you and you should not be charged.