The Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs Guidelines
Only dogs (no other animals) are eligible for B&BTD certification and testing is open to all breeds. Dogs must be at least one year of age and must have lived with their owner for 6 months or longer. Dogs that have been aggressively trained (Schutzhund, etc.) or have a “bite history” are excluded.
Handler/dog teams must be tested and approved according to our testing guidelines and are required to register for membership within a period of one year from their testing date.
All certification is provisional for a period of six months after testing
The overall testing score for dogs with conditional certification must be a perfect score and subject to regularly scheduled recertification. Conditional certification is available under the following circumstances:
- When the handler/dog team is required to work alone (without the presence of other dogs)
- When the use of special training or handling equipment is required (training collar, harness)
- The evaluator may ask for a “short” expiration date, i.e., 3 or 6 months for the dog to be retested
All memberships are for one year and expire. They are due for yearly renewal on the membership anniversary; a renewal notice is mailed to all members one month before their expiration date. Membership and renewal forms must be fully completed and the original forms sent to the office via US Mail.
Therapy Dogs should wear the following tags on a buckle or slip collar, with a four-foot leash or shorter while conducting visitation:
- The red bone-shaped B&BTD identification tag
- Their current rabies tag
- Their local dog-license tag (if their municipality requires it)
- Their ID tag with your contact information
EZ-Walk harnesses® are newly approved and if you choose to use them must be used when testing the therapy dog and subsequently for visitation. The ID should be still attached to a collar worn with the harness.
Flexi-leads®, adjustable leashes, E-Collars (electronic or shock collars), head halters, (Halti®, Gentle Leader®) are never acceptable for visitation or events. Only B&BTD approved equipment is permitted for sanctioned events. Your approved equipment will be listed on your B&BTD ID badge.
Prong or pinch training collars and harnesses are permitted only under conditional certification and very special circumstances. If a handler uses special equipment (training collar, harness for medical reasons) to certify their dog, this equipment must be used during visits. Prong collars must be covered by a bandana.
Do not invite interaction with other dogs; teach your dog to interact with the patients. Keep your dog from violating another dog’s “space” and causing an altercation. This is not playtime! Dogs must be retired when signs show of physical and/or mental distress during visits. Handlers must be aware of signs of stress and should closely monitor the dog’s body language for signs, such as:
- Excessive panting, yawning or change in facial expression
- Jumping or climbing on the handler for security
- Dog may try to hide or look to escape
- Body or legs may develop shakes or tremors
- Ears and tail press close to the body
- Refuses to socialize
Give your dog a break. Take time off from visits or try a different venue. It can make a difference!
MAKE SURE TO CLEAN UP!
Walk your dog well before entering a facility. Limit your dog’s food and water before a visit. If you want to give your dog a drink, try to wait until the end of the visit. (What goes in, must come out…).
Always clean up after your dog and carry clean-up bags. If an accident occurs–apologize and clean it up! Never leave any remnants of you and your dog on the premises!
*IMPORTANT*: DISABLED, INJURED, or ILL DOGS
If a dog develops a disability, a serious illness and/or accident during its career, the owner MUST notify the office without delay. Suspension of visitation is immediate until your dog is recertified. At the handler’s request, B&BTD membership may be placed on hiatus during a dog’s recovery.
After treatment and rehabilitation, the therapy dog’s veterinarian must examine and release the dog to return to therapy work. The B&BTD Health Certificate must be signed by the veterinarian stating that the dog is healthy, sound, and may return to therapy work. The B&BTD Health Certificate has an area for your veterinarian to sign and release your dog after treatment.
Visitation, Visitation, Visitation
A minimum of one-hour visitation per month is mandatory for members. Therapy Dogs must always be leashed during visitation. Only one therapy dog per handler can be used during visits or events.
Never conduct a therapy dog visit without supervision from the facility. An escort should accompany the handler/dog to the department of the facility they are to work. The facility must provide a representative in the working vicinity to help conduct the visit and be available on-site for emergencies.
Dogs and handlers must be clean and well-groomed during visits. For breeds that drool or slobber – use a wash cloth during visits to make petting your dog more appealing. Handlers 14 years of age and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
RUN THE VISIT, DON’T LET THE VISIT RUN YOU! When entering an area for visitation that is boisterous and crowded – protect your dog! Do not enter until order is restored. Avoid being crowded by visitors, patients, staff, and other dogs. If there’s a flock of children or adults waiting to visit, have the facility instruct them to line up in an orderly fashion and approach one at a time for gentle introductions and petting.
B&BTD does not allow the use of cell phones during pet therapy visits. If a cell phone MUST be used, excuse yourself from your visit and go outside the facility. Many people are professionally “on call” and require the use of pagers and cell phones. In this case, set the cell phone/pager to vibrate.
Verbal or written distribution of commercial, religious, and/or political materials during visits or events is prohibited. Upon request, information may be provided about B&BTD, local therapy dog groups, and other B&BTD-related topics.
Let the visited facility know what to expect from you and your therapy dog. Submit a copy of our guidelines and help them understand how to comply, prior to your visit.
VISITATION WITH PATIENTS AND RESIDENTS
Always try to hold or guide the possibly exuberant, and/or clumsy hand toward your dog for petting. Dogs are permitted on beds and laps, only if a member of the facility, the patient, and/or patient’s family give permission first. A towel or disposable pad should be placed on the surface before the therapy dog is placed carefully onto a bed or wheelchair. Therapy dogs are not allowed to jump on residents’ beds or laps. Only those sitting should be allowed to hold your dog and only if the size of your dog allows! (A Great Dane is a not lap dog!) Teaching a larger dog to gently place their head in a person’s lap helps to create more personal contact.
Ask if anyone is afraid of dogs or has a problem before entering a room with a large group of people. Handlers must always wait to be invited into a patient’s room. Don’t try to force a visit on your dog or on a patient. If a dog/handler team already occupies a room, move on. Never awaken sleeping patients. Do not enter a room where someone is asleep. If your dog gives kisses, remember that not all patients, residents, or staff members enjoy this. Be sure to ask first!
Observe all rules of privacy and confidentiality. Never discuss a patient’s health or personal issues. NEVER ask what a patient’s illness is or discuss treatment. We have guidelines for visitation where disease control is of concern; click here to see our Guidelines for Disease Control
DRESSING FOR VISITATION
Dress appropriately. Try to leave purses at home and wear clothing with large pockets to keep wallets (with driver’s license, etc.) with you at all times. Wear non-skid shoes and light clothing; facilities are often very warm (think layers). Handlers must wear their B&BTD identification badges during visits.
Handlers must not be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Avoid using strong smelling perfumes, colognes, and scented oils.
Therapy dog vests are available for purchase; see our website or call our office for info. Vests are not required by B&BTD, but may be by some facilities. Bright red harnesses may be used for visitation to help discern the team as a pet therapy team at work. The leash and tags should be attached to the collar and not the harness.
If possible, do not enter areas where food is served with your dog. If food is served during the visit, excuse yourself and return when the food has been removed. Handlers must not feed their dogs during visits. Patients or residents are NOT allowed to feed the dogs
SPECIAL HANDLER SECTION
Always stay alert to your surroundings. Remove yourself and your dog from any negative, threatening or questionable experience. NEVER leave your dog alone with staff, patients, or visitors. Do not let anyone pick up your dog. Do not let your dog wander off at the end of the leash and allow yourself to be easily distracted while yakking with another handler, gaping at an emergency taking place before you or worrying if your pot roast will be cooked in time for dinner.
Familiarize your dog with stairs and elevators before you begin a visit. When entering an elevator, be considerate. When the elevator doors open, wait and allow people to get on and off. If the elevator is occupied, ask if you may enter with your dog. Go to the back of the elevator and have your dog sit close to you and stay. The dog should remain in a stay until it’s safe to leave the elevator and everyone else has vacated the car. (Similar rules apply to doors at stairways and corridors). Your dog should become accustomed to walking on a variety of different surfaces.
Be aware that some facilities have their own pets or may allow family pet visits. These animals may not behave in the same manner as a therapy dog. Find out if there is a visiting time set aside for family pets and try to avoid visiting during that time. Let the facility know that your dog may not occupy the same space as these dogs during the visitation.
All rules and regulations must be complied with at each facility. All visits must be conducted courteously, professionally and considerately. If the rules are unclear, ask a staff member or activities director to explain them. If any facility rules conflict with B&BTD rules and regulations, please contact the B&BTD corporate office.
You are a large portion of this visit.
Smile and introduce your dog by name and try to engage the patient in simple conversation: “This is Fideaux or FiFi, he/she is 27 years old.” “He’s a New Zealander Leaf Licker.” “Her breed originates in Australia and they were bred to eat humans.” Encourage them to gently pet your dog. Teach your dog commands like “go visit” or “say hello”.
Larger breeds can be taught commands such as “paws up” to allow them to get closer to patients in beds and wheelchairs. Always teach your dog to not put paws on patients with fragile skin! Train your dog to put “paws up” on the edge of a chair or bed rail. Praise your dog for his good work and give him confidence.
If working in an atmosphere of ill and frail people, keep voices low and soft. Give commands quietly and praise your dog for commendable manners. Try not to tax a patient if they seem tired. Keep your dog calm and never shout or raise your voice. Do not let your dog precede you down the hall, around a corner, at doorways, or doors at stairways.
Be sure the wheels of wheelchairs are locked and safety belts are affixed before approaching with your dog. Don’t startle or surprise patients; try to be sure they know you’re present before you approach.
DO NOT GIVE FOOD, WATER, OR ASSISTANCE TO A PATIENT OR RESIDENT – EVEN IF ASKED. Notify the nurse if help is needed. Do not provide chemical substances, e.g., hand sanitizers, hand wipes, or lotions to patients. Do not give food or candy to patients or residents. They often have dietary restrictions or may choke.
Do not let your dog pick up or sniff anything, including a treat that has been dropped on the floor. We often find pills on the floor. Keep an eye on your environment. Teach your dog the command: “leave it”. Keep your dog away from trash containers. Avoid areas where cleaning chemicals were recently used.
Always watch for the patient who might grab the ear, tail, or leash of your dog. Be ready to protect your dog.
Read and obey warning signs on room doors, such as “ISOLATION” or “INFECTIOUS, DO NOT ENTER.” This is important for the patient, your dog, and yourself!
If working in a neighborhood you consider “unsafe”, ask for on-site parking before your visit. In 90 degree heat or above, please be extremely cautious with your dog. When traveling to and from visits, make sure your car is cooled for transportation. Do not leave your dog in the car – EVER! On visitation days when the weather is excessively warm, call the captain of the facility to make sure the visit has not been cancelled. If a captain isn’t available for your facility, evaluate the weather to make sure it is not too hot outside. Many dogs do not do well in the heat. If your dog seems stressed or overwhelmed, cancel the visit. We don’t recommend visitation if the weather is 90 degrees or more.
“Incidents” that occur during visitation must be reported immediately. If a “dog related” injury to an employee, resident, or attendee or dog in the facility occurs during a B&BTD sponsored visit:
- Immediately contact the facility’s supervisor on duty
- Document the incident on all required forms for the facility
- Immediately contact the B&BTD office and report the incident
At no time are B&BTD dogs or its members to be used for any purpose but to bring comfort, companionship and emotional solace to patients during visitation.
B&BTD provides insurance that protects you, the facility and B&BTD in event of an injury to a patient you are visiting. The exchange with your dog that caused the injury must be during a B&BTD sponsored visit within our guidelines.
Coverage applies to B&BTD registered “Volunteer” dog/handler teams in good standing. Members who take their dogs to work and use them as therapy dogs at their place of employment, such as teachers, therapists, doctors, or psychologists, are NOT covered by this policy because compensation is granted to you for the dog’s work. Volunteer visitation, covered by our guidelines at these facilities as a sponsored B&BTD event is permitted, but dogs may not stay at school, offices, or facilities all day and expect insurance coverage while dormant.
Liability considerations requiring special situations (exceptions) must be submitted in writing. This may include: use of a harness for control instead of an accepted collar or special equipment and/or devices, e.g., carts. Pet strollers are approved for visitation only with medical clearance from the dog’s veterinarian and/or the handler’s medical doctor. Written permission will be granted only after we receive a picture of the stroller and documentation showing how the dog is affixed to the stroller.
The Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. (B&BTD) is a non-profit 501 (c) (3), all volunteer organization.
- Personal remuneration is never accepted for any of the services offered by our members
- Donations to B&BTD are welcome and are appreciated
- B&BTD will be notified immediately by the registered member if their dog exhibits aggressive behavior toward another person or dog, whether or not during a visit. Membership will be suspended until the issue is resolved
- In no way are members or any other individual to use the name: The Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc., the logo, or any publication or form for any publicity, monetary compensation, or personal gratification without written consent from the B&BTD Board of Directors
- The therapy dog’s standing in the community is not to be misused in any way such as to obtain passage to a public area not commonly accessible to dogs, such as for assistance or service dogs