What it Takes to Get Certified as a Therapy Dog

Someone said they wanted to know more about being a therapy dog.  I suggest checking out Therapy Dogs International’s website to start with.

Riley and I are certified with Therapy Dogs International.  There are other organizations available to get certified with, but TDI is one of the major organizations to get certified with.  Another good therapy dog organization is the Delta Pet Partners program.  TDI has handlers in all 50 states and in some places in Canada.  According to their website, TDI had over 21,000 therapy teams registered in 2009.  A therapy team is made up of a dog/dogs and their handler.

To be certified, a dog has to be at least 1 year old (all breeds are eligible for certification–even Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, etc.) and must pass a temperament test that includes the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test (CGC).  In addition to that, dogs are tested around wheelchairs, crutches, and children.  They must pass 15 testing requirements.  Check out the Testing Requirements Brochure.

Riley and I went to obedience school for about 10 months training to become a therapy dog team.  Obedience school is not required to be able to pass the test but I would definitely recommend it because it really helps.  For example, your dog has to be able to walk on a loose leash, sit, down, stay, come, etc. for the test and these are basic commands learned at obedience school.  You cannot use treats, a clicker, or harnesses, head collars, prong collars, or check collars for the test, so it is important that your dog be able to walk on a loose leash on just a regular collar.

Here are some pictures of when Riley took her test back in April of 2010:

Tomorrow I’ll post about what it’s like to go on a therapy visit!

12 thoughts on “What it Takes to Get Certified as a Therapy Dog

  1. Our therapy test was outside and we were sure all the distractions would make us fail! We had a nice tester who attributed one of Dru's faux pas to a flock of geese flying overhead.

  2. That lack of a prong collar was difficult. I bought and returned 3 before I decided it had to be done. I hate the way they look (torture devices)but frankly, Calhoun pulls even when he isn't "pulling". We used a gentle leader but his smooshy face wasn't the best mix. Loose leash walking sounds so simple…

  3. My brother Felix is a certified therapy dog. He struggled *real hard* with the no kisses rule. HE LOVES KISSES! But it is so very rewarding to be a therapy pup, he says. Bravo to you and Mom for sharing the word!

  4. We are so proud of you Riley.. We aren't good at walking on a loose leash only if we have the prong one on.. Of course when we did go to obedience class Louie got an A+ for his recall. Dad would wave and he would come on the run.. We think the hearing dogs were a bit jealous of Louie's obedience…Big Sloppy KissesGus, Louie and Callie

  5. We were certified through TDI the first time we tested, but I was unhappy with some of their regulations. I decided to test with Delta the next time I tested, but their recent edict about not allowing dogs who eat raw to be certified didn't sit well with me. I'm still researching to find a good fit for us. I agree, basic obedience is a really good idea, too!We're looking forward to being able to go to our visit Thursday night since last week was cancelled!

  6. Thanks for posting this information. I have never been very good about obeying commands, BUT I also never cause any problems, follow my mom everywhere, and am very patient and loving.Your pal, Pip

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