Team up with your dog to serve your community
Want to engage in meaningful work while hanging out with your dog? Therapy dog work, or Animal Assisted Activities, can be an amazing way to serve side-by-side.
I can help you and your dog prepare to…
Visit nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to brighten the day of elderly residents.
Visit hospitals and children’s hospitals to bring joy and a spot of relief during challenging times.
Visit schools and libraries to assist children learning to read through programs like R.E.A.D.
We’ll focus on:
Focusing in distracting situations. Your dog must be able to respond to your basic manners or obedience cues no matter the environment, from a hospital to a school.
Being calm around people. Much of the work of a therapy dog involves calmly being with people, whether that’s accepting petting from a resident in an elder care home, resting with a patient in a hospital bed, or listening to a child read.
Handling medical equipment. It’s important that your dog be comfortable with and know how to handle herself around walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, IV poles, and the like.
Here’s how we work together
- An initial therapy dog consult in your home
I make it easy by coming to you. At our first meeting I’ll assess your dog for therapy work, explain the process of becoming a therapy dog handling team, and answer all of your questions.
- Customized therapy dog training guidance
If your dog has the appropriate temperament for therapy work, and you decide to work with me, I’ll create a training plan customized to your goals and your dog’s learning needs. And then, most importantly, I’ll help you implement your plan, guiding you through the training program step-by-step.
I’ll help you and your dog prep for therapy team testing to register for organizations like Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA), Pet Partners (PP), and Therapy dogs International (TDI), and Reading Education Assistance Dog (R.E.A.D.), clearing you and your dog for official therapy work.
I’ll also help shore up any basic manners and obedience skills [link to Basic Manners page] necessary to pass your test. While not mandatory, the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is a great way to help prepare for the Therapy Dog test. This real life-based test focuses on basic life skills for dogs in a similar manner to the therapy dog test, and helps to evaluate any areas that need more attention.
Don’t be freaked out by all this testing language! Therapy dog organizations use tests to make sure all parties—you, your dog, and the people you’ll be serving—are kept safe and can fully enjoy the benefits of this wonderful work. But don’t let the word “test” turn you off. I focus on making the process fun and rewarding—that’s the point, after all!
“A rewarding and empowering experience.”
“It has been a rewarding and empowering experience working with Fran Hellman of Four Paws Guidance Dog Training. Her instruction gave me the tools and confidence to help my dog with a gentle way of training, and the results are a happy dog and grateful and better owner.” –Christine and Valentino (Registered Therapy Dog)
My favorite therapy dog training tip
Here’s a quick tip: If you want a successful therapy dog, be your dog’s advocate and protector. Therapy work is hard work, and even dogs who really enjoy and thrive in it can become overwhelmed or experience an off day. The trick is to trust your dog to tell you when it’s too much or she needs a break. If you honor those moments, you and your dog are likely to enjoy this fulfilling work together for many years to come.