Therapy Dog Certification

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A certified therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted, cuddled, and handled, sometimes clumsily, by unfamiliar people and to enjoy that contact. The medical community has shown empirical evidence of the benefits of therapy dogs, which reinforces the need for them. In this article, we will discuss some of the training requirements and location restrictions for therapy dogs.

How Do I Get My Dog to be a Certified Therapy Dog?

Household pets that are trained by the family, require no specialized therapy dog training, therapy dog certification, registration, or documentation. Dogs must be well mannered and under the control of their handlers at all times. Some dogs get formal training from training schools, others are well trained at home by their handlers.  At the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the process is as follows:

Step 1: A certified therapy dog must be a friendly dog. Any mix or breed can be trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, mental health institutions, airports, and many other settings. Dogs must be at least one year old to become a therapy dog.

Step 2: A tester/observer in your area test you and your dog. This test includes a handling portion that tests your dog’s basic good manners, demeanor, and handling skills.

Step 3: After the handling portion of the test, you and your dog are supervised by a tester/observer during three visits with residents of medical facilities. Upon successful completion of these visits and submission of your application paperwork, you and your dog may become a Therapy Team!

Can a Certified Therapy Dog Go Anywhere?

Unlike service dogs, certified therapy dogs are allowed in places where all dogs are allowed and in places that specifically allow therapy dogs, like those hospitals, schools, libraries, etc. that have therapy dog programs.

There are no special rights for therapy dogs which would that allow them to accompany their owners into a business establishment.  Since hotels, motels and campgrounds are businesses, therapy dogs are considered pets and must follow policy.

A well-mannered, well-behaved dog that enjoys meeting people can become therapy a dog and make a difference in the lives of those that need them. To learn more about how your dog can become a therapy dog or the ways in which you can lend support, visit our new member’s page here.