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Safety Guidelines for Animal Facilitated Therapy

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RyanAll dogs used in an A.F.T. program should be trained to at
least a novice level in obedience, and be reliable with these commands under
distracting conditions. Besides being obedience trained, the dog must also be
steady under what could be stressful situations. Examples of these are; loud
sudden noises, sudden gestures, loud yelling, hugs, ear, tail pulling, rolling
carts, hospital equipment, etc. A dog who panics at such things would prove to
be a liability- could bite, run and knock someone over, or frighten patients
among other things! Your dog should be on lead while in a facility, unless
participating in a specific exercise in a therapy session, and dependable off
lead while doing this. it is not necessary for the dog to do precision heeling,
however he should walk closely at your side, as hospital corridors can be very
busy and crowded. Be especially careful when rounding a corner, stay to the
right and be aware of wheelchairs, canes, walkers, etc.


Never allow your dog to jump on people, even if the person
encourages it. Politely explain that the dogs are not allowed to do this, and
invite them to pat your dog while he sits quietly. You could have the dog "shake
hands" to foster further interaction. Be attentive to your dog’s position
and space-watch his tail and paws around wheelchairs, etc. Also don’t permit
your dog to paw at a patient, as some breeds, for example Golden Retrievers tend
to put their paws on people to get attention. Remember that many older people
have fragile skin which tears easily.


Even if you are visiting a facility that has an elderly
population. many times you will encounter children. They may be visiting the
residents, or be related to staff members. As we all know, unfortunately not all
children are well behaved in public so it is your responsibility to monitor
their interaction between the child and dog. This can also be an opportunity to
teach the child how to approach a dog, etc. For this reason, your dog must
also be well behaved with children.


There may be other dogs or animals in the facility while
you are visiting. For this reason, your dog must not be aggressive toward other
animals. Many long term care facilities have resident birds, cat or even a dog.


If a resident asks you to assist him in any way such as,
get him a drink, a snack, help him to the bathroom, help him out of bed, etc.,
explain that you aren’t allowed to do this but will get a staff member to
assist. Many patients may be on special diets, unable to tolerate liquids,
unsafe up and about without help, etc. Never move a patient’s walker, cane, or
other assistive device away from their reach to allow the dog to get closer, and
not return it to where it was. Be sure that their call light is still in place
when you leave, as it may get knocked aside during the visit. If you encounter a
situation or behavior issue that you are not trained to handle, notify the
nearest staff member, who can deal with it.


If a bite or scratch does occur, it must be reported
immediately to the nursing staff, who will have to document the incident, and
will tell you what procedures must be followed as per facility policy.