The Hero Dogs Facility Dog program places highly skilled dogs in facilities throughout the greater Washington, DC area. Our facility dogs provide animal-assisted interventions, comfort, and education to clients and staff in their designated facilities. Facility Dogs work full-time with staff to achieve specific treatment or program goals, and go home every night with the staff member who adopted them to enjoy some well-deserved time off.
Please read below for eligibility requirements and more information.
What is a facility dog?
A facility dog is a dog that, directed by qualified staff within a designated facility, utilizes their special skills and training in animal-assisted interventions to help providers achieve specific treatment or program goals.
A facility dog is similar to a therapy dog, but unlike a therapy dog, which may visit patients or residents at many facilities accompanied by their handler for a few hours a week, a facility dog works full-time at one facility under the care and supervision of a staff member. In addition to the comfort and companionship a therapy dog might bring through visitation, a Hero Dogs facility dog also allows staff to achieve specific therapeutic goals. A facility dog is not a service dog because they do not work with a single individual to mitigate the effects of that individual’s disability.
Hero Dogs that are offered for placement as facility dogs will have generally had between 18 months and two years of specialized socialization and training in preparation for becoming service dogs. These dogs were not suited for work as service dogs, generally due to either a minor health issue or lack of confidence in a specific situation. For example, a dog might be fearful around traffic or on public transportation, or especially sensitive to loud sounds. Dogs selected to become facility dogs are affectionate, gregarious, of moderate-to-low energy and drive, calm and quiet indoors, and are happy to engage with people. The dogs are house trained, have good manners, extensive obedience training, and a large repertoire of specialized skills that can be used in a therapeutic setting.
What are the benefits of a facility dog?
Facility dogs can help staff achieve program participation and treatment goals. They can aid first responders, therapists (physical, occupational, speech, and rehabilitation), social workers and other mental health practitioners, activity directors, and patient educators by:
- increasing patient motivation
- increasing rate and length of participation in treatment or activities
- helping therapists and patients define specific goals and functional outcomes
- promoting use of language
- increasing social interaction among residents
- increasing feelings of security, well-being, and belonging
- creating a more home-like environment
- improving staff morale
Some examples of specific activities and outcomes that can be achieved with the use of a dog in a therapeutic setting are given below.
Examples of fine motor tasks
- Pick up kibble from container with fingers or spoon
- Deliver kibble to the dog or to a treat spoon
- Attach/remove leash from collar
- Buckle/unbuckle collar
- Open/close clasps on dog’s vest
- Zip/unzip pockets on dog’s vest
Examples of mobility tasks
- Walk with dog
- Rise/sit in chair with assistance of dog
- Do steps with dog
Examples of therapy tasks (for dog)
- Alerting to stress cues
- Place head on patient’s lap
- Place front legs and chest on patient’s lap
- Place head on patient’s shoulder
- Turn and sit between patient’s legs in chair or on floor
- Lie beside patient
Examples of large motor tasks
- Throw ball or toy
- Grasp/take ball or toy from dog
- Kick ball
- Pull tug toy
- Brush dog or pet dog
- Hold leash
- Give dog hand signal commands
- Point to or touch named parts of dog
Examples of speech/cognitive tasks
- Name parts of dog as they are indicated
- Give dog verbal commands
- Read aloud to a dog
- Recall facts about dog (name, breed, birthday)
Examples of measurable outcomes
- Number of individuals participating in activity
- Number of sessions completed
- Number of verbal communications per day
- Distance walked with dog
- Distance or accuracy of ball throws
What are the requirements for a facility dog placement?
Following is an overview of basic requirements and expectations for the placement of a Hero Dogs facility dog.
Hero Dogs prefers to place facility dogs in settings which serve large numbers of veterans, military personnel, military families, or first responders, although this is not a requirement. The setting may be residential, inpatient, or outpatient. It may be a privately owned practice or a government or other publicly operated facility. Facilities should ideally be within approximately 60 miles of Hero Dogs (Brookeville, MD).
A single person will be responsible for the facility dog and for meeting the dog’s needs for safety, care, companionship, exercise, health, and training. While joint supervision of the dog among qualified staff members is permissible, joint ownership is not. Dogs will be placed on a six-month trial basis with ongoing evaluation of the success of the placement, after which time the responsible party will assume ownership of the dog. At the end of this trial, the individual will sign the adoption and transfer agreement.
The dog will accompany the staff member to work on a daily basis, and the dog will go home with the staff member each night, so that the dog may have a respite from work and a normal and loving home/family environment, just as human staff members do. Other living arrangements may be approved on a case-by-case basis. During the work day, the dog’s needs for exercise, interaction, and rest must be met.
The dog must be under the supervision of an approved staff member at all times when in the facility. The dog may not be permitted to roam freely about the facility due to potential dangers.
The dog should also have a comfortable, quiet area within the facility where the dog can be placed for their safety or simply when they need rest and down time.
Although the dogs offered for placement as facility dogs have had a high level of training, that training needs to be maintained. This requires a commitment from the staff to undergo training themselves, and to agree to continue to work with the dog on an ongoing basis. Approximately 20 hours of initial training will be required (generally divided as two and a half days at Hero Dogs) before placement. After placement, a monthly training session (one to two hours) is required each month for the following six months. This follow-up training may be conducted at Hero Dogs, at your facility, or at the staff member’s home, as dictated by training needs. At the end of the six month period, a certification examination is conducted at the facility. This certification includes both a written and a practical examination. Each approved handler must pass the practical examination.
There is no fee to adopt a facility dog from Hero Dogs; however, upon assumption of ownership of the dog, the facility or staff member is expected to bear the costs of:
- Hero Dogs will provide you with an initial supply of necessary items at cost (approximately $200 – $600, depending on what is needed).
- All the usual expenses for owning and caring for a dog, including high-quality food, dog supplies, local licensing/registration, monthly parasite preventives, and veterinary care. On average, these costs can be expected to total about $1,000 per year. However, a single veterinary emergency can easily cost $3,000 or more. The facility may wish to consider purchasing pet health insurance.
- The costs of transportation (and lodging if necessary) for visits to Hero Dogs for your facility staff member(s) – initial training, six follow-up training sessions, and graduation.
- If additional training or site visits are required or requested after the initial training, Hero Dogs will charge a fee for staff time.
How do I apply for a facility dog?
If you represent an eligible organization in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area and are interested in receiving a facility dog, please complete a facility dog application.
Please note that there is no guarantee that a facility dog will ultimately be placed with any given applicant. Dogs are matched with applicants based on the dog’s skills, strengths, temperament, and energy level, the composition of both the work and home environments of the applicant, and the facility’s goals for animal-assisted interventions.
If we have a dog that we feel may be a good match for your facility, we will contact you for an interview to learn more about your work and home environments, your day-to-day lifestyle, and your goals for a facility dog placement. Please keep in mind that the wait for a suitable dog can be indefinite.
Additional steps in the process include a facility visit, a home visit, and collection of some supporting documentation as applicable (e.g., proof of professional and personal liability insurance, lease agreements, vaccine certificates for other pets, etc.). We do not proceed with these additional steps until/unless we have a potential match for your facility.
If you have additional questions, please call 888-570-8653 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.