Training & Certification Program

HOPE regions typically schedule training workshops once per year. We do require that interested people and their canines have 12 consecutive months of experience volunteering in animal-assisted activities/therapy with a formal animal-assisted activity/therapy (AAA/T) organization. Canines are the only animals we accept for screening and training.

Overview of the Certification Program

There are four elements to the HOPE certification training program:

  • Informational Video
  • Screening Evaluation
  • Certification Training Workshop
  • Continuing Education

Informational Video

An Informational Video gives prospective members a comprehensive overview of HOPE AACR. Prospective members have an opportunity to meet HOPE members and their canines.

Screening Evaluation

Screening evaluations are designed to help qualify handlers and canines for certification training. A screening consists of an in-depth interview, interactions with HOPE evaluators, obedience skills test, crate test, and a role-play scenario designed to test for crisis response aptitude.

Individuals without canines go though a similar screening process and are evaluated on their leadership skills and aptitude for assisting canine crisis response teams.

Certification Training Workshop

Our 3-day certification training workshop consists of comprehensive training for essential skills needed for animal-assisted crisis response. Some of the topics taught included:

  • History of HOPE AACR and animal-assisted crisis response.
  • The nature and spectrum of disasters; HOPE’s roles in responses.
  • Learn how to communicate effectively in crisis situations for the purpose of providing comfort to affected people.
  • Learn about emergency responders; types of responses; how and when we work with responders.
  • Field training in emergency response environments, personnel, and equipment.
  • Experience and learn about various modes of travel.
  • Learn about the effects of stress on people and what to do.
  • Learn how canines learn, and how they can be effective partners.
  • Learn about canine stress, and what to do when stress happens.
  • Learn and practice canine desensitizing and counter-conditioning.
  • Practice skills by role playing in simulated crises.

Continuing Education:

Continuing education for our response teams is vital for maintaining skills and readiness. We strive to:

  • Reinforce and practice AACR skills to remain response ready.
  • Participate in training exercises and drills with other agencies.
  • Build cohesive response groups.
  • Augment skills with relevant conferences, workshops, and courses.
  • Maintain team skills through active participation in an AAT organization.
  • We encourage members to volunteer with local emergency response/relief organizations, such as American Red Cross, CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), FEMA, Etc.

2024 Screening and Workshop Dates and Locations

  • Central Gulf Coast Region
    • Screening: April 27, 2024 (La Porte, TX)
    • Workshop: June 7-9, 2024 (La Porte, TX)
  • Midwest Region
    • Screening: April 19, April 20, & April 21, 2024 (Marquette, MI)
    • Screening: May 16, 2024 (Marquette, MI)
    • Workshop: May 17-19, 2024 (Marquette, MI)
  • Northeast Region
    • Screening: February 24, 2024 (Pittsburgh, PA)
    • Screening: February 25, 2024 (Gaithersburg, MD)
    • Workshop: May 10-12, 2024 (Location to be determined)
    • Screening: Fall Dates To be determined
    • Workshop: Fall Dates To be determined
  • Pacific Northwest Region
    • Screening: March 23, 2024 (Eugene, OR)
    • Workshop: To be determined
  • Pacific Southwest Region
    • Screening: September 21, 2024 (San Mateo, CA)
    • Screening: August 17, 2024 (Fountain Valley, CA)
    • Screening: September 14-15, 2024 (Phoenix, AZ)
    • Screening: October 24, 2024 (Fountain Valley, CA)
    • Workshop: November 1-3, 2024 (Fountain Valley, CA)
  • Rocky Mountain Region
    • Screening: May 12, 2024 (Brandon, Manitoba)
    • Screening: May 18, 2024 (Denver, CO)
    • Screening: June 1, 2024 (Colorado Springs, CO)
    • Workshop: July 12-14, 2024 (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • Southeast Region
    • Screening: March 16 & 17, 2024 (Gainesville, FL)
    • Workshop: April 26-28, 2024 (Gainesville, FL)
    • Screening: September 21 & 22, 2024 (Kannapolis, NC)
    • Workshop: October 25-27, 2024 (Charlotte, NC)