Testing is quite extensive, some of this includes:
• The Shih Tzu must allow the evaluator to check all areas of the body, including paws and tail and the dog must show that he/she is fine with being touched.
• The Shih Tzu is walked by rooms with people in the hallways, displaying the ability to greet them and show friendliness.
• Owner and dog must enter rooms a certain way… The owner enters first (to see if a particular person wishes to have a visit) and then the dog enters only if that is confirmed.
• The Shih Tzu is tested on the commands of 'Heel', 'Sit', 'Down', 'Come' and 'Leave it' at various parts of the assessment.
This last one is perhaps the most difficult with therapy dog testing, since it involves the dog obeying the command to not touch food that is being offered to him and/or not drinking from a bowl
of water that is placed on the floor.
This is to keep the dog safe since a patient could accidentally offer medicine to a dog instead of an actual piece of food and liquid on the floor could be hazardous. The Shih Tzu must not even lick the food being offered and cannot lap at the water at all, or he/she will fail the test. You'll want to have this command (and others) down pat before testing day.
• The Shih Tzu must show a willingness to greet and be petted by a variety of people. This includes those in wheelchairs (the dog is put on laps for some of this), with crutches and with walkers.
• The Shih Tzu will be tested regarding distractions and his/her ability to stay by the owner's side and maintain his/her composure. This can include such things as someone dropping a heavy object or even someone skateboarding up behind the dog as he is being walked.
At some point during the exam, there will be test volunteers letting out mock cries, moans and other such unsettling noises that one may encounter in a hospital setting.
Another important 'distraction' test involves children
behaving quite raucously and the dog is expected to calmly lie down with his back to the children.
• There will be a 3 minute period when the owner must step away out of sight. During this time, the Shih Tzu is expected to remain unfazed and is not allowed to bark, whine or show any agitation.
• The Shih Tzu will be tested as to how he/she reacts to other dogs (since other therapy dogs of any breed may also be volunteering at the same time).
In all, there are 13 tests, divided into 2 phases.
, snapping or biting will automatically disqualify a dog. Even such things as not immediately recovering from being startled, acting shy or licking the offered food will result in not passing the course.
If you register with Therapy Dogs International, you'll be given a manual and a DVD to be able to thoroughly practice with your Shih Tzu and then you can decide when you think he/she is ready.