Having a therapy dog can bring immense joy and comfort to those in need. From providing companionship to offering emotional support, therapy dogs are an invaluable asset to those who need additional comfort or support. Training your own dog to be a certified therapy dog requires dedication and patience, but the rewards of having a therapy dog are well worth the effort.

Research Requirements

Before beginning the process of training your dog to be a therapy dog, it’s important to do your research. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has outlined three main requirements for therapy dogs: behavior, safety, and health.

Behavior Requirements

According to the AKC, therapy dogs must have “a calm, gentle demeanor and be comfortable in any situation.” This means that the dog should be able to remain calm and relaxed even when faced with unfamiliar people or environments. Additionally, the dog should be comfortable being handled by strangers and not be easily startled by loud noises or sudden movements.

Safety Requirements

The safety of both the dog and those they are visiting is of the utmost importance. As such, the AKC recommends that all therapy dogs be vaccinated against rabies and other common illnesses and that they be kept up to date on their routine shots. Additionally, the dog should be spayed or neutered to prevent any potential behavioral issues.

Health Requirements

Finally, it’s important to ensure that the dog is in good physical health. According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, “the most important factor in determining whether a dog is suitable for therapy work is its overall health.” Therefore, it’s important to make sure that the dog is free from any physical ailments or conditions before beginning the training process.

Choose an Appropriate Dog Breed

When choosing a dog breed to train as a therapy dog, it’s important to consider the temperament and personality of the breed. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, professor of clinical sciences at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, suggests looking for breeds that are “calming and gentle” and have a “friendly disposition.” Breeds such as retrievers, poodles, and golden retrievers are all good choices for therapy dogs.

Start with Basic Training

Once you have chosen an appropriate breed, it’s time to start the training process. The first step is to teach the dog basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. It’s important to use positive reinforcement techniques such as treats and praise for successful completion of tasks. This will help the dog develop a strong bond with their handler and become more amenable to further training.

Introduce Socialization

The next step in training a therapy dog is socialization. This involves taking the dog out and exposing them to different people and environments. This will help the dog become more comfortable in any situation and will make them better suited for their role as a therapy dog. It’s also important to introduce the dog to other animals and children so that they can become accustomed to being around them.

Get Certified

Once the dog has completed their basic training and is comfortable in any situation, it’s time to get certified. There are many organizations that offer certification for therapy dogs, such as the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program. This involves passing a series of tests and evaluations to ensure that the dog meets the necessary requirements. Upon successful completion of the certification process, the dog can then begin offering their services as a therapy dog.

Offer Comfort and Support

The final step in training a therapy dog is to offer comfort and support to those in need. This can involve taking the certified therapy dog to visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other settings where they can provide comfort and support to those in need. Seeing the joy that the therapy dog brings to those they visit can be an incredibly rewarding experience.


Training your dog to be a therapy dog can be a lengthy and sometimes challenging process. However, the rewards of having a therapy dog are well worth the effort. By following the necessary steps, from researching the requirements to obtaining certification, you can give your dog the chance to make a difference in the lives of those in need.

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By Happy Sharer

Hi, I'm Happy Sharer and I love sharing interesting and useful knowledge with others. I have a passion for learning and enjoy explaining complex concepts in a simple way.

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