Therapy Teams: Heather & Abby, Wendy & Dexter, Cora & Ziggy, and Jeanne & Khan

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What kinds of animals can be Health Heelers therapy animals?
In addition to dogs, Health Heelers accepts domestic cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, mini horses and birds.

What breeds make the best and worst therapy dogs?
There is no specific breed of dog that makes the ‘best’ therapy dog, nor is there a specific breed that is disqualified   from being a therapy dog. The animal’s personality and behavior are most important. The Health Heelers "Co-Founder" was an incredibly joyful German Shepherd who offered an enthusiastic and loving connection to everyone he met.

Is the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test a prerequisite?
The Pet Partners evaluation is based in part on the exercises of the CGC so having some familiarity with them can be beneficial, however it is not a prerequisite. In fact, if old-fashioned training methods were used by your CGC instructor, much of what you and your pet learned may have to be retrained. Our training methods include only current, science -based, positive reinforcement methods.

My dog is stressed in the car, does that mean he can’t be a therapy pet?
Putting an animal into a situation of known stress (a car ride) before ‘working’ would be unfair and unkind. My own dog, Mingo, was anxious in the car. We did not pursue therapy work with him for that reason.

My dog isn't obedient 100% of the time and can be a bit rowdy. Could we still become a therapy team?
Animals bring a lot of joy into our lives because of their spontaneity and enthusiasm. Animals can possess varying levels of energy and even exuberance outside of "work". In our class, you learn gentle methods to help them stay in control.

My dog pulls so I need to use a pinch collar on her. Is that a problem?
Prong, choke and other such collars are not allowed. The good news is, there are wonderful solutions to keep a dog from pulling; including equipment such as front-clip harnesses that are humane and readily accepted by the animal,  and positive training techniques that quickly teach your dog to walk without pulling. Please check out www.forcefreewisconsin.com for training information.

My senior dog is slowing down but I want him/her to be a therapy pet. Is it too late?
Every animal is different, so your personal insights into your pet’s changes as s/he ages are important. In general, the therapy dogs I have worked with are often moving towards retirement around the ages of 10-12 years old. However there are certainly exceptions and we can discuss the specifics of your pet with you.

Will my cat make a good therapy pet if s/he takes a little while to warm up to strangers?
Therapy animals must be exceedingly social at the onset. They must want to engage with stranger after stranger, and maintain a connection with them for a period of time. A pet who takes a while to warm up or is timid or indifferent towards people would probably not be happy in a therapy animal role. However, as homebodies their presence is often therapeutic to those they live with!

What do cats have to do to pass the evaluation?
Cats and other animals must pass a very similar evaluation as a dog. They too must demonstrate that they are comfortable in new settings, with various people, unfamiliar handling and stimulation, and medical equipment. They must be comfortable in a collar or harness and leash, and of course, they must be very interested in engaging with strangers. They do not complete the obedience portion in the same way that dogs do.

Why bother with a screening?
Health Heelers screenings give you a chance to see whether or not your pet has the necessary foundations before    you invest time, energy and money into the process. Our Founder has over 200 hours of participation in seminars and workshops related to animal behavior, training, emotion and cognition. Screenings offer objective, expert input that can help guide you.

How long does it take to become a therapy team with my pet?
The process from screening to classes to evaluation to “becoming an official team” takes an average of 5-7 months.

How much does the process cost?
Factoring in the Pet Partners requirements and membership, our therapy animal classes, and the required vet visit can cost a few hundred dollars for the first two years. After that it is roughly $100 every two years.

Am I required to take Health Heelers classes if I get a free screening?
Although our classes are not a requirement for becoming a Pet Partners team, most people who pass the screening continue with Health Heelers classes. And virtually all of them express that our classes were "the most valuable part of our preparation".

I have SO many interests, how do I make sure my therapy pet and I are in the right place to do the most good?
Just like people, our therapy animals aren't suited for every environment or every type of person. It's very important to really understand and honor your therapy pet's emotions and strengths to find the most rewarding and suitable setting for both of you. Our Founder can offer our students insight into appropriate settings for therapy animal teams.

We’re already a Pet Partners team. How can I join Health Heelers?
Health Heelers programs have additional expectations and requirements beyond the Pet Partners evaluation that potential teams need to be aware of. By completing our online application you may request a screening so that we can learn if joining our organization would be beneficial for both parties.

I am certified with another therapy animal organization. Can we join your group?
All Health Heelers teams must be registered with Pet Partners because their high standards are well aligned with Health Heelers standards and expectations. Additionally, some other therapy dog groups restrict their members from partaking in visits or activities through any another therapy dog organization.

If I go through Health Heelers training, what is my chance of passing the evaluation? 
The great majority of Health Heelers students successfully pass the Pet Partners evaluation and go on to become registered therapy teams.

If I complete the process and become a therapy team with my pet, where can I go? Who can I visit?
Once you're a Pet Partners member you can access a listing of facilities on the Pet Partners website. Nursing homes, assisted living, libraries, hospitals and hospices that offer therapy animal visits should welcome Pet Partners teams. Health Heelers offers specialized placements for teams from time to time, usually in complex settings.