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Volunteers

We are always looking for more volunteers to visit in their local communities.

Volunteering is so rewarding and you don’t even need a dog to join us, you can become a VIP Supporter.

If you’d like to join us, read on…

Frequently Asked Questions

Volunteering

What training do I need to do with my dog before the assessment?

The assessment involves several tests to ensure the suitability of the dog’s temperament and attitude for this type of work. It is the temperament of the dog that is paramount, size, breed, pedigree or cross-breed, first-owned or rescued are immaterial, the individual character and how the dog will react in all manner of situations is the vital consideration.

 

We would recommend that all dogs wishing to apply for assessment to are at the Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme Bronze award (or equivalent) standard.  The KC GCDS is accessible throughout the UK and is a great starting point for basic life skills as well as in preparation of the TDN assessment.

I currently volunteer with another charity, can I join you?

Yes, of course.  Your dog will need to complete our temperament assessment and you may continue visiting.

Why should I volunteer?

You know how your dog makes you feel (and we don’t mean when they have just walked across your clean floor with its big muddy paws!)

They are a comfort and a confidante. Dogs are non-judgemental, and their mere presence will often have a calming effect.

Studies have long since shown the benefits of using dogs to aid mental health, well-being, and confidence.  Our volunteers tell us how wonderful it is to be able to share their incredible dogs with someone else.  Come and join us and share how amazing your dog truly is.

What is the difference between an Assistance Dog and a Therapy Dog?

An Assistance Dog is a dog that has been trained to perform a specific set of tasks and focus on a single person.  Most people will think of Guide Dogs for the Blind as a good example but did you know there are many recognised organisations that are members of Assistance Dogs UK?  You may also have heard of Hearing Dogs or Medical Detection Dogs.

A Therapy Dog is often a pet dog belonging to a volunteer which visits establishments or the community to provide comfort.  Therapy Dogs are used in Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) to improve mental, physical, social and emotional functioning with the aid of animals.

Dogs will be temperament assessed for the role they will fulfil such as visiting schools to help children with reading, working with autistic adults and children, visiting the sick or elderly, or increasingly associated with large corporations as part of their staff well-being programme to reduce stress in the work place.

TDN do not train or provide Assistance Dogs.  We would recommend you contact Dogs for Good who are better placed to help you.

How do I apply for my dog to be assessed & what can I expect on assessment?

In the first instance you will need to contact the office on 07840 994003 or at enquiries@therapydogsnationwide.org to ask for a registration pack to be sent to you.

In the pack you will be given a list of assessors who cover your area, please make contact and arrange a mutually convenient time and place.  Please note, all our assessors are volunteers and many work full time so there may be a short delay in getting a date set up.

You will also receive a copy of the temperament assessment.  It is not designed to catch you out.  We are looking for calm, relaxed dogs who will walk on a loose lead and will easily settle.

Our assessments are carried out in a public place.  Our temperament assessors usually choose somewhere like Sainsburys or B&Q where there is some activity but where they can be undisturbed.  It can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.

Please ensure that your dog is brought to the assessment on a flat collar and lead (harness permitted upon receipt of veterinary letter).  Please also bring poo bags, an appropriate grooming implement, food rewards and ALL your paperwork.

Our assessors have a vast wealth of knowledge about the charity so please feel free to ask any questions as this is your opportunity to find out about us too.

Once the assessment is completed the assessor will hand all the paperwork back to you.  Please ensure you have completed the check list and return everything to the office.  Applications are usually taking between 4-6 weeks to complete (depending on how quickly your references are returned) but can take longer particularly after Crufts.

How much does it cost to become a volunteer?

We ask all our volunteers to pay a subscription of £12 per year (due 1st April).  This will cover insurance, paperwork and your ID badges.

My dog doesn’t like other dogs, can I still apply?

Yes, please do!  It is unlikely that as part of your regular visiting that you will come across another dog.

I don’t have a dog at the moment, can I still be part of the charity?

Yes!  You can become a VIP Supporter.  You can attend all our events and fund raising.

I have two dogs, can they both become Therapy Dogs?

Both dogs would need to be assessed individually with you and their applications will be considered on individual merit.

My puppy is brilliant around children, can he become a Therapy Dog?

All puppies are cute, and some are exceptionally well behaved, but they need time to grown up, experience life and discover their own individual personalities.

We ask that all dogs are a minimum of 9 months old before applying for assessment and that all dogs have been with their current owner for at least 6 months.  This gives you time to understand each other and develop a partnership.

Once we become volunteers can my dog come to work with me every day as a Therapy Dog?

Sadly no.  Our insurance will only cover you for visits with a specific TDN focus.

When visiting your dog must remain on lead and be under your sole control at all times.

Many teachers and office workers contact us in the hope that they can have their dogs with them all day at school or work under the TDN banner but unfortunately this is not acceptable due to a potential conflict of interest between the welfare of your dog and the obligations placed upon you by your employer.  As a TDN volunteer your responsibility is to yourself and your dog.


 

Visiting

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.


 

Uniform

Can my dog wear a harness for visiting?

Currently, unless we have a letter from your vet or canine physio requesting that your dog wears a harness, we ask that your dog wears a flat collar and lead during their visits.  Ideally, they will be wearing their TDN collar and lead as part of their uniform, but we will accept a plain black and/or yellow collar and lead.

We will also permit fabric or leather martingale / fishtail collars (more commonly known as a greyhound collar).  We do not allow choke chains or half check chains during visits.

What do we wear if we are going to appear in photos?

We are all about having fun, but we do like to project a smart and professional image at all times.

When representing the charity, please ensure your dog is in correct uniform for photographs, TDN flat collar / lead and bandana / jacket.

You are part of a unique family, we know you will wear your uniform with pride.

When do I wear uniform?

Our volunteers are proud to be part of TDN and often wear full uniform when visiting their regular establishments.  For the volunteer, this is a TDN polo shirt, black trousers or skirt, black shoes and your ID badges.

The dog has a yellow collar and lead with the Therapy Dog logo and either a TDN bandana or coat.  It makes them easily identifiable as a visiting team.  We would always ask that your dog has their collar / lead and bandana / coat on for identification purposes, but you do not have to be in uniform for your regular visits.

We don’t currently provide outdoor clothing but have official badges that can be sewn onto a black or yellow fleece or hoodie.


 

Other Activities

How do I fund raise?

We have many fund-raising events around the country.  Your ATL / RM is often your best place to start and we regularly update our news feeds and Facebook with upcoming events.

However, you don’t have to wait for a local event, why not organise one of your own?

Stickers and leaflets and business cards are available for all volunteers and flags, banners and collecting tins can be arranged through your ATL.

What is an awareness day?

Awareness days usually involve a small group of local volunteers and their dogs who will have a small stand at a show or fair to share the work we do and recruit new volunteers.  They may be asked to give talks to community groups such as the WI or Scouts.

Can we go to Crufts?

Crufts is the highlight of our social calendar.  It’s four days of not stop fundraising and awareness.

We all have the “best dog in the world” and we all want to show off how proud we are to represent TDN but often people do not give full consideration as to how overwhelming Crufts can be.  It’s noisy, it’s tiring, it’s busy.  It is often difficult to move due to the sheer number of people, there are buggies and pushchairs and bags.  People will approach your dog from all angles and never think to ask before stroking them.

Your dog may be ideally suited to visiting nursing homes or busy schools but please think twice about bringing them to Crufts.  That said we usually have a small number of dog and handler tickets each year.  Please keep an eye on the Crufts page for further information and how to apply.


 

Health & Wellbeing

My dog is RAW fed, can they still become a Therapy Dog?

Yes.  We allow raw fed dogs to join TDN.  There is no evidence to show that raw fed dogs prove a higher infection risk than kibble fed dogs and we believe in feeding your dog a complete balanced species appropriate diet.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) produced guidelines in 2017 stating that RAW fed dogs should not visit a hospital environment but in practice, many hospitals we visit have made a judgement based on their own experience and have not excluded us from visiting.  That said, an establishment may ask that they do not have a RAW fed dog in which case we will respect their decision and help you find an alternative placement.

I do not give my dogs annual boosters (vaccinations), can they still be a Therapy Dog?

Yes.  We follow the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines that state that dogs should not be vaccinated more frequently than every 3 years and only then by challenge (blood test).  We will accept titre tests or VacciCheck as proof of immunity and wormcount.com (or similar) as proof of anti-parasitic care.

Where do I go for support?

Sometimes things don’t always go to plan.  You may need additional support and guidance, or you may not be comfortable with a person or situation.

It could be something very simple or a more complex situation We have a dedicated Wellbeing Officer who will listen to you and offer help and support.  In addition, you may contact your ATL, RM or any of the Trustees who are happy to help.

Safety

Volunteering with TDN is very rewarding.  The concept of Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT) is very simple but highly effective.  We want you to enjoy your time with us.  However, if for any reason you become uncomfortable during your visits or are being asked to do something you are not happy with, please politely decline and remove yourself from that situation.  Your safety and wellbeing, and that of your dog, are of paramount importance.