What is a Therapy Dog Team?

What is a Therapy Dog Team?

There are 2 Key Elements:

  •  A dog that has the temperament of warmth, love and companionship to humans.
  • A human that has the dedication to give of their time, warmth and care to other human in need.

Handler Skills:

The handler must enjoy being around people, be friendly and polite, and have good visiting manners. He or she should be able to:

  • Demonstrate active listening skills
  • Communicate with different populations
  • Understand and follow current rules of confidential
  • Demonstrate disability etiquette, wheelchair etiquette, and proper terminology regarding people with disabilities
  • Understand infection control issues and zoonotic concerns
  • Remain aware of the dog at all times and remain in control
  • Help the dog carry out the tasks needed for the job
  • Praise the dog’s good behavior, and redirect inappropriate behavior
  • Recognize stress in the dog, be aware of ways to relieve it promptly

Canine Talent and Skills:

The dog must be willing to initiate contact with unfamiliar people and have good social skills and manners. Most organizations require that dogs be at least a year old for full registration. He or she should be able to:

  • Offer rabies certificate, documentation of good health and freedom from parasites, which is required by the national registry or the facility being visited.
  • Reflect cleanliness and appropriate grooming including teeth and nails
  • Function well around equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, and respiratory devises.
  • Demonstrate basic obedience commands in the midst of distractions;
    • Sits, lies down, stays on command
    • Walks on leash without pulling
  • Remains well controlled around other dogs.
  • Greets people politely (without jumping or mouthing), and calmly accepts the petting from strangers.
  • Must be dog friendly while greeting and in the presence of strange dogs.
  • Must be able to focus on the people visited.


Building and maintaining confidence and trust is the most important preparation for a team. Strong socialization is also very important, followed by acclimatization to unusual sounds, sights and odors.