What is a Facility Dog
A Facility Dog is a specially trained Service Dog that works with a volunteer or professional who is trained by a program. The work of a Facility Dog can include visitations or professional therapy in one or more locations. Public access is permitted only when the dog and handler, who is a trained volunteer or professional, is directly working with a client with a disability.
Facility Dogs participate in Canine-Assisted Therapy (CAT). CAT is a goal-directed intervention designed to promote improvement in physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning of the person(s) involved and in which a specially trained dog-handler team is an integral part of the treatment process.
ECAD’s Facility Dogs
In the past year alone, ECAD has placed Facility Dogs in three elementary schools, one high school and a children’s home in New York State.
These superbly educated dogs help the teachers and counselors in making their students and staff happier at their schools, more eager to attend literacy classes, more confident in expressing their frustrations and fears to their counselors, all because a four pawed friend is present, non-judgmental, and ready to listen.
ECAD has also placed Facility Dogs with District Attorney offices, nursing homes, and hospitals. In fact, Memorial Hospital in Hollywood FL has had up to ten ECAD Facility Dogs on its staff over the past ten years.
“Too often, the only time you hear about ‘comfort’ dogs at a school is after a tragic incident,” Lu Picard said. “I am thrilled that these schools and others are beginning to recognize the value of having an educated dog on staff. A dog that can work preemptively with the students, helping them over difficult times, even reducing the bullying that often leads to tragedy. We know these dogs make a huge difference in a child’s outlook.”
ECAD Facility Dogs receive the same 1500 plus hours of training that Picard and her instructors give to Service Dogs in Training. Their handlers attend Team Training and must pass the public access test to be certified. This is an ECAD’s standard.
“For a career as a Facility Dog in a school, we look for dogs that are eager to engage kids and are more into giving comfort as their mission in life rather than doing specific tasks,” Picard said. “For those who will work in a hospital and be assigned to the physical rehab area for a period of the day, I want a dog who is willing to perform tasks for several handlers, not just their one person.” These specially coached Service Dogs for schools are trained to meet these exacting demands.
The Facility Dogs who are members of the staff at Memorial Hospital serve a variety of duties, such as providing comfort and distraction for a child receiving chemotherapy. Service Dogs for hospitals often also play an active role in the physical therapy and rehabilitation departments.
If a stroke victim needs motivation to strengthen an arm or leg, what better or more fun way is there than to throw a ball for a hospital Service Dog to catch and retrieve, or to tug and pull on a strap, or to be challenged to walk on a treadmill because an encouraging dog, with tail wagging, is walking on one right next to you?
Each Facility Dog is educated to work with a number of handlers (all of whom have attended Team Training), but there is also typically a primary handler for each dog. The Service Dog usually lives with that individual, although in some instances there is shared custody.