Not every dog is equipped to be in Akron Children’s Doggie Brigade. Our screeners leave nothing to chance. They want to know exactly how your dog will react to loud noises, unexpected touches and mobs of people.
Will your dog take it in stride when a wheelchair rolls by? Can he ignore loud noises and leave food on the floor? Will he care if someone touches his tail when he least expects it?
To become a member of the team, a dog must be able to handle all of that and more as well as pass a veterinarian screening.
“We need to find out if the dog has the aptitude and the skills to visit with our patients,” said Cindy Duncan, Doggie Brigade advisor and supervisor of our Reinberger Family Center. “Yes, they have to know basic commands such as sit, down and stay. But it is just as important to find out if they want to be petted by strangers. Do they truly and genuinely like people? You have to have a dog that will come in here and let large numbers of people pet him, sometimes all at once.”
Those interested in enrolling a dog in the Doggie Brigade are invited to call the volunteer office at 330-543-8424 and ask for an application.
“The workshop is the place where you can learn if this program is for you,” Duncan said. “At the workshop, we bring in an active Doggie Brigade team and they actually run through the screening test at the workshop so people can ask all the questions they want to ask.”
One thing that surprises many dog aficionados is the no-treat rule during the test.
“You can’t treat a dog during the screening,” said Duncan. “Your dog has to be able to react by voice command.“
The real reward for the handler and dog is the enormous impact the program has on our patients and staff. Our brigaders logged more than 3,500 hours in 2011.
The final step is a visit to the vet to make sure Fido is healthy enough to visit on the patient floors. Fecal and throat samples are processed by our lab, at no expense to the owner, to ensure the dog isn’t a carrier of infectious disease.
The top two breeds in our Doggie Brigade have always been and will probably continue to be golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers due to their laid back, eager-to-please nature. The third and fourth most popular breeds are Bernese Mountain dogs and Newfoundlands, respectively.
But don’t let these purebred dogs fool you. We’ve got plenty of representation from a variety of mixed breeds, and some of the “mutts” are among the most popular of our brigaders.
Learn more about the test at these links on the Pet Partners website.
Have you been touched by our Doggie Brigade? We’d love to hear your story, or you can comment on this post.