Therapy & Facility Dogs

Therapy Dogs & Facility Dogs

What is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is the canine half of a human-dog team that is used to help bring joy and relief from stress to a multitude of people. Therapy dog teams are usually volunteers and visit facilities (by invitation) like schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, among others, by using the natural therapeutic effects of dogs to improve the lives of many!

Therapy Dogs must have a naturally friendly and stable temperament with all sorts of people and dogs. They must handle stress well and truly crave attention–this is a born temperament, not one you can create!

What is a Facility Dog?

A facility dog is a therapy dog that works in a single facility or environment on a more permanent basis. Some examples of these dogs include: courtroom dogs, dogs that work with school counselors or teachers, or dogs that permanently reside at a nursing home. *These are the majority of the types of dogs that we work with.* 

Therapy Dog Training and Certification

We offer private therapy dog training and certification through our organization. This means that our therapy dog program is tailored specifically to your goals and needs, particularly when working with school faculty or other facilities and their staff, policies, and activities.

Because the therapy dog team is comprised of a dog and a handler while working, we only offer this option through Private Lessons, where the dog and handler are working together to learn and master the skills necessary to graduate the program. In addition, we require teams to complete and pass three separate assessments prior to graduating:

  1. Temperament Assessment – This is conducted during the initial training consultation. Just like with service dogs, we must know that, in a worst-case or high stress scenario that a potential therapy dog will be safe when interacting with the public. Dogs that go on to work as therapy animals must have rock-solid temperaments and be friendly towards all people
  2. AKC Canine Good Citizen Test – Therapy dogs may work with children, the elderly, and everything in between and must be under their handler’s control at all times. The American Kennel Clubs’ CGC test provides a standard of training and behavior that has national recognition as an obedience title.
  3. Final Therapy Dog Exam – This final exam incorporates both simulated therapy visit interactions as well as testing the team’s ability to perform all behaviors in a realistic, high-distraction environment. This final exam is conducted, with approval, in the facility where the dog will be working or in a pet-friendly public venue.

*Please keep in mind that all therapy team visits are by invitation only to any facility. Therapy Dogs do not have any additional access to places of public accommodation than a normal pet unless they are specifically invited to be there. Any reported instances of misconduct by a therapy dog team while visiting a facility or misuse of therapy dog identification are grounds for immediate dismissal from our program.*

Eligibility Requirements

  • Dogs must be at least 1 year old
  • Must be spayed or neutered
  • Must have lived with current owner for at least 6 months
  • Have NO history of aggression towards other dogs or humans
  • Current on all vaccinations
  • In good health and condition

Therapy Dog Sunny and her handler Mike work at the K-12 school in Alberton, MT, visiting classrooms, helping with the reading program in the library, and working with the school counselor.