How To Get Your Dog Certified As A Therapy Dog

Do you think your dog has what it takes to become a certified therapy dog?

If you and your dog have the heart and time to volunteer in schools, libraries, nursing facilities, hospitals, or other locales, then this is for you.

Like Alliance for Therapy Dog’s Mission states: Therapy dogs and their handlers share smiles and joy with people of all ages!

What are the benefits of a Therapy Dog?

The benefits of therapy dogs are numerous.

They include physical benefits for those who are visited by the dog and handler team.  These interactions have been shown to reduce blood pressure, provide physical stimulation and assist with pain management.

There are also many social benefits to a visit from a therapy dog A visiting therapy dog promotes greater self-esteem and focused interaction with others and reduces heart and blood pressure and anxiety as well as increases endorphins!

Prerequisites to Get your Dog Certified

Contrary to popular belief, in order for a dog to become certified as a therapy dog, many organizations require testing of both the dog and the handler.

Testing is designed to make sure that the handler and their dog have a good relationship with each other and that their dog has the right temperament for therapy dog work.

Many therapy dog programs require a dog to receive the Canine Good Citizen award.

The CGC program is a training program for dogs.  The basis of the program is bonding, socialization, and basic obedience. The tagline of the program is “Responsible Owners, Well-Mannered Dogs”.

Dogs in the CGC program must pass a 10 step non-competitive test.  The steps include the following:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger
  2. Sitting politely for petting
  3. Appearance and grooming
  4. Walking on a loose lead
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Sit, down, stay on command
  7. Come when called
  8. Reactions to other dogs
  9. Reaction to distractions
  10. Supervised separation

Additionally, the handler must subscribe to the AKC Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge.

Owners are required to sign a pledge that essentially states that they will uphold responsibilities that go with dog ownership including agree to keep their dog in good health, providing opportunities for training and exercise, and provide for the overall quality of life for the dog.

Would my dog be a good candidate to become a Therapy Dog?

Socialization is key. A therapy dog must be friendly, well mannered, follow commands and be well handled by the human person of his team, meaning you!

A therapy dog’s sole purpose is to provide comfort and affection to those in the setting that they visit, most often a hospital type setting.

Dogs who are great candidates to become a Therapy Dog often love being around people, aren’t frightened by loud noises and don’t experience anxiety in new places, surrounded by new sights, smells, and things.

Testing to Get your Dog Certified

Once you think your dog is ready to become certified as a therapy dog, you both will have to be tested.  A tester or observer (TO) will monitor you and your dog during three visits to a facility.

Your dog’s manners, friendliness with strangers, ability to follow direction as well as your skills at handling the dog will be watched.

If all goes well during three on-site observed visits, you will be given the go-ahead to submit your application paperwork thus becoming a certified therapy team.

For more information about therapy dog certification, reach out to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs or any groups recommended by the AKC.



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