National Training & Certification Program

HOPE regions typically schedule training workshops once per year. We do require that interested people and their dogs have 12 consecutive months of experience volunteering in animal-assisted activities/therapy with a formal animal-assisted activity/therapy (AAA/T) organization. Dogs 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 Open House
  • Screening Evaluation
  • Certification Training Workshop
  • Continuing Education

Information Open House

An Open House gives prospective members a comprehensive overview of HOPE AACR. Prospective members have an opportunity to meet HOPE members and their dogs. We recommend you plan on attending an Open House when available.

Screening Evaluation

Screening evaluations are designed to help qualify handlers and dogs 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 dogs 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, & equipment.
  • Experience and learn about various modes of travel.
  • Learn about the effects of stress on people and what to do.
  • Learn how dogs 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.

2023 Screening and Workshop Dates and Locations

  • Central Gulf Coast Region
    • Screening: April 22, 2023 (La Porte, TX)
    • Screening: April 29, 2023 (Dallas, TX)
    • Workshop: June 9-11, 2023 (La Porte, TX)
  • Eastern Region
    • Screening: February 25, 2023 (Frederic, MD)
    • Screening: February 26, 2023 (Binghamton, NY)
    • Workshop: March 24-26, 2023 (TBD)
    • Screening: Fall Date(s) TBD (Location TBD)
    • Workshop: Fall Dates TBD (Washington, DC)
  • Midwest Region
    • Screening: July 22, 2023 (Kalamazoo, MI)
    • Workshop: August 18-20, 2023 (Kalamazoo, MI)
  • Pacific Northwest Region
    • Screening: March 19, 2023 (Location TBD)
    • Workshop: March 31-April 2, 2023 (Location TBD)
  • Pacific Southwest Region
    • Screening: August 12, 2023 (Phoenix, AZ)
    • Screening: August 19, 2023 (Redwood City, CA)
    • Screening: October 7, 2023 (Orange County, CA)
    • Workshop: October 20-22, 2023 (Orange County, CA)
  • Rocky Mountain Region
    • Screening: April 22, 2023 (Colorado Springs, CO)
    • Screening: May 6, 2023 (Westminster, CO)
    • Workshop: June 22-24*, 2023 (Colorado Springs, CO) *Due to facility availability the RMR workshop is Thu-Sat this year.
  • Southeast Region
    • Screening: March 18, 2023 (Gainesville, FL)
    • Screening: March 19, 2023 (Kannapolis, NC)
    • Workshop: April 14-16, 2023 (Gainesville, FL)