How to Make Your Dog a Therapy Dog: 12 Easy Steps Guide

If you’re a dog lover, you may interested in learning How to Make Your Dog a Therapy Dog. Do you know you can also harness their therapeutic potential by turning your dog into a therapy dog? In this article, we will guide you through making your dog a therapy dog, step by step.


Therapy dogs are special canines trained to offer emotional support and comfort to people in need. These dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other institutions, making a positive impact on the lives of those they interact with.

What is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is not a service dog or an emotional support animal. They are trained to provide emotional support to individuals other than their owners. Their primary role is to help improve the emotional and psychological well-being of the people they visit.

Benefits of Having a Therapy Dog

Having a therapy dog can be a rewarding experience, both for you and the community. Therapy dogs offer several benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, increasing social interaction, and bringing smiles to people’s faces.

Scientific Research

The Benefit of Pets and Animal-Assisted Therapy to the Health of Older Individuals

This meta-analysis of five studies found that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) had a small but significant effect on reducing the symptoms of depression in older adults. The study also found that AAT had a positive effect on reducing social isolation and improving quality of life in older adults.

Characteristics of a Good Therapy Dog

Not all dogs are suited for therapy work. A good therapy dog should be well-behaved, friendly, and adaptable to different environments and people. Temperament and demeanor play a significant role in determining a dog’s suitability for this role.

Types of Therapy Dog Work

Therapy dogs can be involved in various types of work, including visiting hospitals, schools, and disaster relief situations. You can choose the type of work that aligns with your dog’s temperament and interests.

How to Make Your Dog a Therapy Dog

1. Preparing Your Dog for Therapy Work

Before diving into therapy dog training, make sure your dog is physically healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations. It’s also essential to consider your dog’s age, as puppies may not be ready for this type of work.

2. Basic Training for Therapy Dogs

Basic obedience training is a crucial foundation for therapy dog work. Your dog should be well-behaved, responsive to commands, and calm in various situations.

3. Advanced Training for Therapy Dogs

Advanced training focuses on preparing your dog for the specific demands of therapy work, such as interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds and remaining calm in potentially stressful situations.

4. Socialization:

Socialize your dog with various people, places, and situations. Your dog should be comfortable around different individuals, including children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

5. Health Check:

Ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and is in good health. Many therapy dog organizations require a vet’s certificate confirming your dog’s health.

6. Find a Recognized Therapy Dog Organization:

Research and choose a reputable therapy dog organization or program in your area. Some well-known organizations include Therapy Dogs International (TDI), Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD), and Pet Partners. Each organization may have its own requirements and evaluation processes.

7. Training and Evaluation:

Enroll in a therapy dog training class or program offered by the organization you’ve chosen.Your dog will undergo an evaluation to assess their temperament, behavior, and obedience. This typically involves a series of tests to ensure they are suitable for therapy work.

8. Volunteer Hours:

After passing the evaluation, you and your dog will need to complete a certain number of volunteer hours as a team. These hours are often spent visiting the designated therapy locations.

9. Insurance and Liability:

Ensure you have the necessary liability insurance, which may be required by the therapy dog organization and the locations where you’ll be volunteering.

10. Finding a Therapy Dog Certification Program

To get started, you’ll need to find a reputable therapy dog certification program. These programs provide the necessary training and evaluation to ensure your dog is well-prepared for therapy work.

11. The Certification Process

Certification typically involves a series of tests and assessments to ensure your dog meets the necessary standards for therapy work. These evaluations assess behavior, obedience, and socialization skills.

12. Legal Considerations for Therapy Dogs

Understanding the legal aspects of therapy dog work is essential. This includes liability, insurance, and following guidelines to protect both your dog and the people they interact with.

How to Find Therapy Dog Opportunities

Once your dog is certified, you can start looking for opportunities to volunteer. Local hospitals, nursing homes, and schools often welcome therapy dog visits. Joining a therapy dog organization can also provide placement opportunities.

Tips for a Successful Therapy Dog Visit

A successful therapy dog visit involves proper preparation and understanding the needs of the people you’ll be interacting with. Be patient, compassionate, and empathetic during your visits.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Therapy dog work can be emotionally rewarding but also challenging. Dealing with difficult situations and people requires resilience and maintaining your dog’s well-being.


In conclusion, making your dog a therapy dog is a noble endeavor that can bring joy and comfort to those in need. It requires dedication, training, and a deep love for both your dog and your community. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can embark on a fulfilling journey with your furry companion, making a positive impact on the world.

How to Make Your Dog a Therapy Dog


1. What is the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog?

A therapy dog provides emotional support to others, while a service dog is trained to assist a specific person with disabilities.

2. Can any dog become a therapy dog?

Not every dog is suitable for therapy work. It depends on their temperament, behavior, and training.

3. How long does it take to train a therapy dog?

The time required for training varies depending on your dog’s starting point and the specific therapy dog certification program.

4. Is therapy dog work stressful for the dog?

Therapy dog work can be demanding, so it’s crucial to ensure your dog is comfortable and happy during visits.

5. Where can I find therapy dog certification programs in my area?

You can search for local therapy dog certification programs or consider online options, but ensure they are reputable and recognized.

1 thought on “How to Make Your Dog a Therapy Dog: 12 Easy Steps Guide”

Leave a Comment