A therapy dog and handler visiting a young girl in the hospital

So ya wanna be a therapy team?

Many students come to us wanting to do therapy work with their dog. Let’s talk about what exactly a therapy team does and how someone would start working toward that goal!

A therapy dog is a dog who provides comfort and support to many individuals in a school, nursing home, hospital, or other environment. It is important that therapy dogs be certified, since certification from a licensed therapy organization provides liability insurance to protect all parties in the event of an injury during a therapy visit.

Therapy work is extremely rewarding! If this interests you, there are steps you can take toward this goal!

What kinds of dogs are good candidates for therapy work?

  • There is no special breed requirement – all breeds can participate!
  • Dogs who love being petted by strangers
  • Dogs who are calm and gentle (sometimes this comes with age and training!)
  • Dogs who aren’t fearful, anxious, or aggressive
  • Dogs who are comfortable around stimuli of various kinds (rolling carts, crowds, medical equipment, loud talking, children squealing)

If this sounds like your dog, what should you do next??

In order to apply for most therapy organizations, such as Hand in Paw, your dog must be 18 months or older and he/she must have lived with you for at least the last 6 months. Your dog also must have completed a group obedience class. (We can help with that!)

While we have loads of fun and helpful courses, the typical obedience track for therapy work starts with Beginner Obedience, then Impulse Control, then Therapy Prep I. Many students also choose to take Therapy Prep II, our outings class, in order to receive extra coaching and practice problem-solving in a public environment. 

For those with very young pups, we recommend starting with our Yappy Hour puppy socialization class, which familiarizes pups ages 8-14 weeks with sensory stimuli of all kinds. This is a GREAT foundation for potential therapy dogs!

Have you been thinking about therapy work and you’re ready to apply for Hand In Paw? Visit handinpaw.org/handler-application/