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Are you and your dog ready to become a Therapy Dog Team?

Here are some of the more important characteristics of a therapy dog and handler.
1. My dog and I are comfortable interacting with strangers

2. My dog does not jump or paw people – unless requested

3. My dog is ok with strangers handling and touching him/her

4. My dog walks nicely (perfect is not necessary!) on a leash

5. My dog is ok around food and doesn’t become aggressive about food

6. My dog has a calm demeanor

7. My dog is pretty tolerant to unfamiliar sights and smells (think about a hospital setting or being near a cafeteria)

8. My dog listens to me and I am comfortable keeping my dog under my control

9. I keep my dog clean and under good veterinarian care

10. I am comfortable in hospital or nursing home or school locations where my dog and I might go to visit.

11. I am willing to volunteer my time up to at least one or two visits monthly in order to stay familiar with the expected guidelines for therapy dog work.

Refer to information from the therapy dog associations for further information.

Test your Knowledge about Therapy Dogs and Making Therapy Dog Visits to a Medical Setting 


You are on a great path for you and your dog to become a therapy dog team.

Here are some more references and resources for you to look over.  Never give up! You can do it!

Books and Resources

#1. Dogs do not require any additional grooming or bathing prior to a visit

TRUE - Dogs visiting any medical setting are expected to be clean and at the top of the doggie health scale. Many hospitals, in fact, require the dog to be bathed a day or two before their visit. This is based on recommendations from the American Association of Infection Control.

#2. I can still visit if my dog has diarrhea, because I have given him medicine.

False - DO NOT visit if your dog is not in their best health! Not only does that stress the dog, and possibly make him sicker, there is always the chance that the dog may cause people to become ill. Not many, but a few, dog illnesses can be transferred to humans.

#3. We can visit if I don’t feel good, because my dog does all the work

False -  Particularly in these “covid times” please NEVER visit if you are sick. Those you would have visited will thank you.

#4. I should let my dog “potty” just before we visit.

True - Yes, always let your dog eliminate prior to a visit. They get excited and possibly a bit stressed during the visit, so don’t take a chance on an accident or stressing out your dog who may need to potty. Take supplies for clean-up.

#5. Once I’ve been in a place, I can go with my dog there whenever I want.

False - Therapy dog associations and certification provide insurance as part of the certification process. Many organizations that invite therapy dogs to visit operate on the assurance of that insurance. One caveat of the insurance coverage is that you are covered by the insurance ONLY when the visit is a sanctioned visit by the facility.

#6. It’s important to feed my dog before we visit.

False -  It’s suggested NOT TO feed dog a full meal just prior to a visit. Dogs can become sick if stressed or if they eat too much. An “accident” is more likely to happen also. So be on the safe side and feed a part of the meal or feed a few hours before the visit.

#7. If I see my neighbor there, I will tell other neighbors to go visit her!

False - Medical facilities have VERY STRICT rules about confidentiality. NEVER tell anyone that you saw someone at the facility unless that person specifically says to tell someone specific. Err on the side of keeping quiet.

#8. I will be happy to help those we visit to get out of bed to sit in the chair.

False - Even if you are skilled and helping others in and out of bed is your daily work, when you are in the role of a volunteer you are NEVER to assist those you visit. Always get someone from the facility to assist them.

#9. It is OK to allow others to feed my dog on our visits.

False -  NEVER let someone feed your dog during a therapy dog visit. Accidents can happen, and dogs will be dogs, even the gentlest and best behaved may act unexpectedly.

#10. I should carry my therapy dog certification card with me whenever I visit.

True - Carry your therapy dog certification card with you at all times when making visits. It doesn’t need to be on your person, but you need to be able to access it upon request. Many therapy dog certifying organizations require the dog also wear some identification of their TD status.

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