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Home DOG THERAPY What Makes A Good Therapy Dog? 

What Makes A Good Therapy Dog? 

by Bella Woof

A certified therapy dog provides comfort to people other than their handlers or owners. They visit facilities such as hospitals, airports, funeral homes, schools, nursing homes, and other locations with their handlers to brighten the day of those they visit. 

Read on to learn about what makes a good therapy dog and how to get your pup certified!

All dog breeds are welcome.

At Alliance of Therapy Dogs, we accept all dogs, any breed, or mix of breeds, as long as they follow our member rules and regulations and pass their certification test. From miniature poodles to Great Danes, we love having new members join our alliance! 

How Old Does My Dog Have To Be?

Dogs must be at least one year of age to test to join ATD. 

What Intelligence Does My Dog Need To Have? 

As long as your dog listens well, is well socialized, and has good manners, your dog can test to become a certified therapy dog. There is a video of what to expect when testing, it can be found on our Join Be a Member page.  The human part of the team must know and follow all ATD rules while on therapy dog visits. 

What Temperament Should My Dog Have?

Candidates for certification should have a calm demeanor around people and other animals. They should be friendly and outgoing to strangers but not overly excited or wild. 

How Does A Dog Become A Certified Therapy Dog?

Here at Alliance of Therapy Dogs, we have five steps to become a therapy dog member and get your pooch certified.

Step 1

First, you will need to visit our Join, Be a Member page and complete a background check form. Usually, within 48 hours of submitting it, you will receive an email from the background check company stating you are eligible to proceed with the next steps (listed below). 

Step 2

Next, you can download and complete the paperwork for member registration. There is a health form you need to get completed by your vet and other forms you need to read through before starting the testing process. You will need to know the guidelines and rules before you meet with your Tester/Observer to start the test and observations.

Step 3

Once you have a cleared background check, a completed vet form, and have studied the rules and regulations, you’re ready to take the test! On the ATD website, you can find a list of local volunteer testers/observers that you can contact to test you and your dog. The initial test includes handling skills and if you and your dog pass the test, the next step is to have three supervised observations of facilities with the Tester/Observer. Once you pass the test and three observations, then you submit the complete application packet to the ATD office which will review your application and if approved issue your certification.

Step 4

You will be required to submit:

  • Copy of Background Check eligibility
  • ATD member application page
  • Release of Claims form
  • Health Verification Form
  • Rules review
  • Completed ATD test and observations
  • One-time $15 new member processing fee and annual $30 fee (that helps provide insurance coverage) Total cost is $45 for one dog and one handler to join and there is a requirement to renew once a year 

Step 5

Once you become a member of the alliance, you can share smiles and joy with your furry best friend. As an ATD member, you are welcome to volunteer when and where you would like as long as you are invited to do so.  The office can help you with some pointers to get your foot in the door at facilities near your home, or we can send out an email on your behalf asking other volunteers to let you know where ATD dogs are welcome and invited to visit. 

Hope you enjoyed learning about therapy dogs! If you’re looking to volunteer with your dog or are a facility requesting a visit from a therapy dog, please contact the ATD office. 


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