Share-A-Pet has designed the TOP test specifically to certify pets and their handlers as qualified to perform Pet-Assisted Therapy in hospitals, nursing homes, children’s centers and other designated institutions such as schools.
Most dog/handler teams will need a basic training course and then an intermediate training course, such as Canine Good Citizen training to learn and practice the exercises necessary to pass the TOP test. Course training is not required, but highly recommended. Your dog should also be well socialized to strangers and other dogs, enjoy being handled and walk on a leash without pulling. Fearful or shy dogs may need extra work with a trainer to teach them to relax and allow themselves to be restrained and groomed. Not all dogs are suitable for therapy work; however, most people who put in the time and training necessary with their dogs, are able to pass the TOP test the first time.
Share-A-Pet TOP Testers are trained and registered to administer the TOP test to you and to make suggestions in areas where you and your dog may need to improve if you do not pass the test the first time. If you and your dog are not able to pass the TOP test the first time, you may need to engage the services of a pet trainer in your area. Our TOP tester can provide you with the paperwork to have your trainer work with you and your dog. Our TOP Testers will not be able to train you if they are administering your TOP test. Please make sure to check with them if you have any questions. There is no limit to the number of TOP tests you and your dog can take, make sure to see what the costs of retesting may be in your area.
The TOP Test is only part one of the certification process and should not be considered as an independent qualification to perform Pet-Assisted Therapy.
After a dog/handler team has passed the TOP test, the next step is to learn more about Pet-Assisted Therapy through hands on training, by working with experienced Share-A-Pet Team Leaders and Members. New Team Members are generally very excited about getting started; however, they have some apprehension about what to do during their first few visits at a facility. In addition, the dogs need to ‘learn’what their role is when doing pet-assisted therapy and it generally takes several visits before they understand what they are supposed to be doing.
The steps below were designed to help new Team Members, you and your dog, feel more comfortable when performing Pet-Assisted Therapy on their own for the first time. It is important that these steps are taken in the correct order and are required to be completed before a Team can become certified and visit facilities independently.
Team Assignment: After you and your dog have passed the TOP test, you will be assigned to a Team Leader who will help you find a facility based on your location, preferences, facility needs and availability.
Three evaluations to get your ready. These are some of the most important steps in your certification process and are something that Share-A-Pet prides itself as being one of the only pet therapy organizations to offer, even though they all should. These are where you learn your trade.