Charitable Registration No.: 88312 8308 RR0001

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What to Expect at an Ottawa Therapy Dogs Orientation Session




The goal of OTD orientation sessions is to inform potential therapy dog handlers about this exciting and wonderful way of contributing to the community.


Note that orientation is held before undergoing our Evaluation.  Prospective OTD members are required to fill out an application and submit the evaluation fee prior to being put on the applicant wait-list.


The orientation session lasts about two hours. It is usually held on a weekday evening at a facility where therapy dog visits are taking place.


First steps


Our orientation session begins with general definitions about therapy animal work, followed by a role play to demonstrate (with fun and amusement!) how to/not to behave on a visit. We include a demonstration about good grooming, emphasizing infection-control issues for the dog, the handler, and our clients. A discussion on zoonoses (diseases shared by humans and canines) helps to reinforce the need for good health for handlers and their therapy animals.


Emphasis on well-being


Our dogs work with us and we are their advocates. Burnout is something we want to avoid. In order to safeguard our therapy dogs, the orientation session includes information on recognizing signs of stress, which is a dog’s way of signalling it is time for a break. To emphasize the importance and relevance of safeguards, we run a short video of therapy dog visits.




Orientation concludes with a short question-and-answer period, a review of the benefits of joining Ottawa Therapy Dogs, distribution of handouts, and signing of confidentiality agreements.