Do you and your dog have the qualifications to become a great therapy dog team? Any size or breed can become a therapy dog except wolf or coyote mixes. Qualifying for the AKC Canine Good Citizen award is great preparation for becoming a pet therapy team. A therapy dog and handler team should have the following attributes and skills:
Therapy Dog Attributes and Requirements
Attracted to and enjoys interacting with all people
Calm, confident, and friendly with people and animals
Not aggressive or fearful
Responds to basic obedience commands with distractions
Tolerant of clumsy petting, loud noises, smells, and medical equipment
Tolerant of other animals in the area
Clean and healthy
At least one year old and living with you at least six months
Current on vaccinations, negative fecal exam within one year
Confident, attentive interaction with clients
Knowledgeable of facility’s policies
Positive guidance and control of your dog at all times
We are an international registry of certified therapy dog teams. At ATD, we provide testing, certification, registration, support, and insurance for members who volunteer with their dogs in animal-assisted activities. Our objective is to form a network of caring individuals and their special dogs are willing to share smiles and joy with people, young and old alike.
Our Human Members
We do not rely on fundraising to succeed. No one you see in action nor our testers are paid nor can they charge any fees. Even our board of directors is made up of volunteers. Our only paid employees are our office staff. By keeping our membership costs low, we can provide therapy dog services at no cost to facilities that we visit.
Our Canine Members
We are focused on the well-being and the behavior of your dog regardless of age or breed. We look for well-mannered, well-behaved dogs that enjoy meeting people. While obedience training can be useful in a therapy setting, ATD doesn’t require formal training, certifications, or tests other than our own. All dogs tested for ATD’s certification must be up-to-date on vaccines and have a negative fecal exam in the last year. There is no restriction on diets or supplements given our canine members. Dogs may also be fed treats on therapy dog visits if the facility also allows treats. ATD is open to register any breed of dog except wolf or coyote mixes.
Our Testing Process
Unlike other therapy dog organizations, we have a unique testing process that involves handling your dog. Our testing is designed to make sure you and your dog have a good relationship with each other and that your dog has the right temperament for therapy dog work. After the test, a Tester/Observer (T/O) will monitor you and your dog during three visits to facilities that include two visits to a medical facility. During these supervised visits, the T/O will instruct you and your dog on the art of visiting and give you advice and guidance while observing you in action. If all goes well, the T/O will pass you and your dog and recommend you for certification with ATD.
Where We Work
Our teams provide therapy in many settings, including but not limited to airports, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehab facilities, mental health institutions, schools, hospitals, cancer centers, hospice facilities, college campuses and can also provide therapy in patients’ homes. ATD doesn’t restrict where our teams visit. ATD teams may choose to be members of local therapy dog groups. They may also participate in nation-wide therapy dog initiatives with organizations like the Red Cross and R.E.A.D. Additionally, we allow our members to visit with teams who may be registered with other organizations.
Registration is very affordable. For $30 a year (plus an initial one-time $10 new member fee), a team can be registered with ATD and covered by our insurance in order to share in the mission of sharing smiles and joy with their dog.
The Pet Partner Team Evaluation is scheduled and completed after successful completion of the Pet Partner’s Handler’s class. The evaluation is a mock therapy animal visit conducted with a Pet Partners licensed evaluator. The evaluator will assess your ability to interpret and manage your animal’s behavior, as well as your animal’s response to your cues. Evaluations are scheduled 4 to 5 times per year.