We value the credibility of our program and our volunteers and pets. We make sure our certified pets are healthy, current on their rabies vaccinations, well-trained and treated properly.
Our pets are well-mannered and each pet must pass the AKC official CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test and/or Temperament testing.
We do not allow chain leashes, or chain, prong or shock collars on our visits.
We require that all pets be at least 6 months old to be considered for certification testing, and never conduct visits with animals that are not certified or not up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
Also through the AKC, we are able to award their Therapy Dog titles to our volunteers who have completed those requirements. Mixed breed dogs can also earn these titles. Dogs that are still actively competing in the show ring are welcome as our volunteers and are able to add the Therapy Dog Title to their official AKC registered name. Show animals are not permitted to be neutered, so that is not one of our requirements.
Certification for Joining Smiles and Fur Friends
It is not just the pet being certified, but the human/pet pair that is trained, tested and certified together as a pet therapy team.
ALL potential volunteer pets will be evaluated for temperament to ensure they are suitable to be a therapy animal. Your pet will be exposed to sounds, actions and equipment that they could encounter on a variety of therapy visits. Pets must very tolerant. Many facility patients and residents are not aware that their behavior could startle a pet and the pets cannot react negatively. Many of our visits are with seniors with dementia or children with autism and our pets may be roughly handled without warning. Any aggression by our pets toward people or other pets is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated. All handlers and animals must be screened and invited to join.
CGC testing and certification:
There are 10 requirements for CGC certification.
1) Greets a friendly stranger
2) Sits politely for petting
3) Welcomes being groomed, brushed; allows paws, tail and ears to be handled
4) Walks as directed on a loose leash
5) Moves politely through a crowd
6) Sits, lies down, and stays in place on command
7) Comes when called
8) Behaves politely around other dogs
9) Reacts with confidence to distractions
10) Can be left with a trusted person (3 minutes)
Dogs will be also be expected to obey the usual obedience commands: "Heel" "Sit" "Down" "Stay" "Come" and also the extra commands “Watch Me” and “Leave It”. It must walk at your left side on a slack leash.
We have two extra commands we stress and require your pet obey:
‘Watch Me’ (to get the pet’s attention off of whatever it is interested in and back onto its handler, looking at only their face). This is to break the dog’s concentration on a distraction, like another dog, or a cat, or squirrel, or a resident with a chocolate treat. Our pets often have to be very close to one another in elevators or small rooms and they can easily get distracted. It is useful in many circumstances. It must take the dog’s focus off of something else and back onto you.
‘Leave It’ (to get the pet to back off of whatever it might be trying to do) This is to make sure the pet will not eat something dropped on the floor (eg. medication), or will back off sniffing another dog, or many other times. If you drop a treat on the floor, do not allow the dog to eat it. You can pick up the treat to give it to your dog from your hand. There could be a potential pill that someone has dropped on a hospital or nursing home floor that your dog could think is a treat. Your dog's life could be saved by the "Leave It” command!
No treats are permitted during CGC testing. You will need to use a regular or martingale collar and 4-foot or shorter leash for the test and for all visits. No harnesses or accessories are allowed for testing.
Once the CGC test is passed, you can mail your documentation to the AKC for the pet's title. A pet needs to be registered with the AKC before getting the title, but not before being tested. The CGC certification is offered at many locations and those evaluators are listed on the AKC web site. We will need a legible copy of the CGC certificate or the evaluation form the owner received from the CGC evaluator. There are many web sites that discuss the CGC exam and some have demonstration videos.
We have found these CGC requirements match our needs appropriately. Our pets must display manners (#1, #2, #4, #6 & #7). Our pets must often be crowded with others in elevators (#5 & #8), be surrounded by a group of small children or college students all petting them at once (#3), cannot get upset by sounds that occur in nursing homes and hospitals and schools (#9), and don’t mind being held by another volunteer while their owner uses a rest room or parks their car (#10).
Temperament Testing with our evaluators:
There are 17 items on the Smiles and Fur Friends
(We do not accept Temperament Tests from evaluators outside of our organization.)
1) Pet comfortable wearing collar and leash (or harness and leash if not a dog)
2) Pet’s toenails appropriate length and filed smooth
3) Pet walks appropriately on a leash (NO pulling, jumping or barking)
4) Pet tolerates hands over entire body
5) Pet tolerates being hugged fairly tightly
6) Pet tolerates all feet handled and squeezed
7) Pet tolerates tail squeezed and pulled
8) Pet tolerates ears squeezed and pulled
9) Pet tolerates nose being touched
10) Pet tolerates mouth being touched (look at teeth)
11) Pet tolerates being held “feet up” (cradled like a baby)
12) Pet tolerates being passed from stranger to stranger
13) Pet tolerates being very close to other pets
14) Pet tolerates loud noises nearby
15) Pet tolerates being startled (like umbrella opening)
16) Pet tolerates being left with a stranger for 3 minutes
17) Pet tolerates “elevator” simulation (pets and people crowded together)
NOTE: No treats are permitted during testing. You will need to use a regular or martingale collar and 4-foot or shorter leash for the test and for all visits. No harnesses or accessories are allowed for testing.
There is no AKC title for a pet that has passed Temperament testing. The evaluator will provide a certificate upon passing.