Pass or Practice


TALES BLOG /Pass or Practice

Pass or Practice

What happens if you don't pass the Hand in Paw evaluation?

Do you want to be a Hand in Paw Therapy Team but are nervous about passing the evaluation? Don’t worry – you are not alone! Test anxiety is real and completely natural, but we hope that by the end of this blog post you feel more at ease about the process!

During the Hand in Paw evaluation, you and your dog will be tested on basic obedience skills such as “sit” and “lay down”, as well as some role-play exercises that simulate real visit scenarios. The evaluation gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your team skills and show the connection you share with your dog and their willingness to follow your cues. It also helps determine whether your team has the ability and interpersonal skills to volunteer as a HIP Therapy Team.  


We’re Here to Help

After you have applied on our website and have been screened by HIP staff, volunteers who are ready for the next phase will be invited to our Therapy Team workshops. While attending our workshops, HIP instructors will go over each exercise that will be tested during the evaluation and will practice with you and your classmates. This is a great opportunity for the instructors to observe and give helpful tips and tricks for areas of improvement before the exam.

In addition to reviewing the exercises during the workshops, we have also created a helpful video which demonstrates the full HIP evaluation. This video is a great tool for practicing at home and prepping for the evaluation, plus you can watch it as many times as you need!  



Practice Makes Perfect

Another way our instructors will make you feel at ease is by hosting a mock evaluation before scheduling the real thing. This typically happens at the end of the workshop cycle and helps both you and our staff decide if you are fully prepared to proceed with testing. Once the mock evaluation is over, we’ll let you know if there are any final exercises that could use some work or put you at risk for not passing.

If there is an exercise that your pup is really struggling with, we may also schedule a one-on-one training session with you to work on those issues! Our goal is to set you up for success and make sure you feel fully prepared and confident before evaluating!  


Pass or Practice

At Hand in Paw, no volunteer team ever “fails” the evaluation. Rather, we encourage them to simply keep practicing and retest at a later date!  In most cases, the only reason a volunteer does not pass their evaluation is simply because there was one or two exercises that needed some work, or the pup needs to mature just a little bit.

At the end of the test, if you do not pass, we will tell you exactly why and what needs to be worked on. We'll be available to schedule practice sessions with you to continue supporting you on your volunteer journey! Then, when you feel comfortable, we can schedule another evaluation date!    



Becoming a Therapy Team takes time and dedication from both you and your pup. While we wish we could let everyone who applies become a Therapy Team, our screenings, workshops and the final evaluation are all in place to ensure that the highest quality of animal-assisted therapy services can be provided to our clients.

If you are interested in becoming a Therapy Team, we encourage you to view the whole process by reading our Step-by-Step guide on our website. If you have questions, we’re here to help! Please email our Volunteer Coordinator, Stephanie Stoltzner, at