Required Certification for Service Dog Training for Hospital Visits


Service dogs who accompany their owners to comfort people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, mental institutions, nursing homes and disaster areas are called therapy dogs. These dogs must be approved by these institutions, which often have strict dog-visitation policies.



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Many hospitals, concerned with liability, safety and infection control, may require certification or registration, as well as liability insurance provided by such organizations as Therapy Dogs International or The Delta Society. Most will require that your dog pass the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test, which defines what the AKC considers a well-behaved dog. Some places such as nursing homes and senior centers welcome visits from those with well-behaved pets without proof of testing.

Canine Good Citizen Program

The AKC's Canine Good Citizen Program offers a 10-point certification test that stresses good manners for dogs and responsible pet ownership. Dogs who pass the 10-step CGC test receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club. The 10 points are awarded for accepting friendly strangers; sitting politely for petting; appearance and grooming; walking on a loose leash; walking through a crowd; sitting down and staying in place on command; coming when called; good reaction to another dog; good reaction to distractions; and supervised separation. All dogs, purebred or mixed breed, old enough to have received the necessary immunizations may take the test. Owners sign the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge stating their dog is under the routine care of a veterinarian.

  • Therapy Dogs International

While the AKC does not certify dogs, groups such as Therapy Dogs International (TDI) does. TDI is an organization that regulates, tests and registers therapy dogs and their volunteer owners for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, schools and wherever therapy dogs are needed. TDI registers all breeds of dogs 1 year old and over with proper immunizations. Handlers under 18 must have a parent or guardian present.

Certification Requirements

Therapy Dog International certification requirements include the 10 points from the AKC's Canine Good Citizen Program and four additional tests. The dogs are tested for positive reaction to medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes and walkers; response to the "leave it " command to ignore food placed nearby; acclimation to infirmities, demonstrating confidence when exposed to people breathing heavily, coughing, walking unsteadily and other distractions; responding positively to the "say hello" command, showing willingness to meet, be petted or held by a stranger; and finally, a non-aggressive, friendly reaction to children .

Delta Society’s Pet Partners

The Delta Society's Pet Partners program screens, trains and registers volunteers and their domesticated pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, horses, miniature pigs, birds, etc.) for visitation programs in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care centers. Training is provided through hands-on workshops taught by Delta Society-licensed instructors or through a home-study course. After training, the pets are evaluated by Delta instructors to determine if they are controllable, reliable and predictable, with good manners in public places and the social skills to visit strangers. Delta's national network links volunteer teams with facilities in their own communities that request visiting pets.

  • Dogtime: Therapy Dog Certification?
  • American Kennel Club: AKC’s Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program
  • Delta Society; Pet Partners® Program

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Training your dog to be a therapy dog

A tan and white dog, sits outside on the grass

Interested in learning more about therapy dogs, or perhaps considering training your own pup to be one? We’re here to answer all your questions!

What is a therapy dog?

Therapy dogs are dogs that work with a handler to provide affection and comfort to members of the public. These pups may visit schools, hospitals, or nursing homes, to name a few places. 

Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs have no special rights and must obtain permission to enter public places that are not otherwise pet-friendly. 

Which types of dogs do best as therapy dogs? 

Kid scratching dogs belly

While there are no breed or age restrictions for therapy dogs, not every pup is cut out for this special job. Dogs that are obedient, calm, gentle, outgoing, and not easily overwhelmed are generally best suited for this role. Additionally, therapy dogs must be comfortable being touched—sometimes by many hands at once.

As you consider whether your furry friend would make a good therapy dog, make it a point to observe their behavior in a variety of different settings that involve interaction with people of all ages. Watch for any indications that your pet is stressed, such as retreating or abnormal panting, even if they ' re perfectly friendly and well behaved. 

Therapy dog work in the community requires teamwork, and making sure that you know what to expect as a therapy dog handler is just as important as making sure that Fido is up to the task. Building connection is a key part of the role, and therapy dog handlers can generally anticipate engaging in lots of conversation. If the thought of small talk makes you want to run and hide, you may want to consider a different activity for you and your pup to take on together.

What are the benefits of training a therapy dog?

Any dog person knows that simply being in the presence of a canine companion is a day-brightener. When you train your dog to be a therapy dog, you become a team whose essential job is to bring comfort and joy to the community.

In addition to providing emotional support, therapy dogs also bring many physical benefits to the humans they visit. As the American Kennel Club notes, interactions with therapy dogs have been shown to cause lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and increased levels of endorphins in humans.

And it isn’t a one-way street — studies have shown that therapy dogs have higher-than-average levels of endorphins and oxytocin compared to other pets!

What training is required to become a therapy dog?

A solid foundation of obedience is key for any dog to complete therapy dog training and take the work to the real world.

Golden retriever practicing nose touches

The first step to becoming a therapy dog is passing the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test . This test evaluates a dogs’ manners and obedience, and dogs that pass will receive a certificate. Animal Humane Society offers the test at our Golden Valley location, though it is currently limited to training school students. 

Once a dog is canine good citizen certified they are able to register for AHS’s eight-week therapy dog prep class where we will:

  • Review obedience skills
  • Work through desensitization exercises
  • Provide opportunities to shadow active therapy dog teams
  • Discuss common animal-assisted therapy scenarios that will set you and your dog up for success in a public setting.

See our therapy dog prep class information page for more details and how to register.

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How to Train a Dog for Hospital Comfort Visits

Visiting a hospital can be a daunting experience for anyone, and in such ‌times of vulnerability, a warm and comforting presence can make all the⁣ difference. For pet owners with⁢ well-trained dogs, the concept of hospital comfort visits has become increasingly popular. These furry ambassadors, clad in wagging tails and empathetic eyes, have ⁣a unique talent for melting away anxiety and brightening even the darkest of ⁣days.​ However, behind these ​seemingly‍ effortless ⁣encounters ​lies a careful process of training and preparation ‍that transforms ⁣a beloved family pet into a therapeutic companion. In this article, we will delve into the art of training a‍ dog for hospital comfort visits, revealing the steps, techniques, ⁣and special considerations​ required to ensure a dog’s positive impact on ‌patients, healthcare⁢ staff, and‍ the community at large. So, grab a ‍leash and let’s embark on this⁤ transformative journey together.

Table of Contents

  • – Creating ⁢a Calm and ⁢Confident Environment for Hospital Comfort‍ Visits
  • – Building a Strong Foundation: Basic Obedience ‍Training for Therapy Dogs
  • – Sensitizing Your Dog to Hospital‍ Settings: Gradual Exposure and Desensitization
  • – Teaching Specialized Behavioral Skills: Techniques for Gentle Patient Interaction
  • – Maintaining Wellness and Hygiene: Essential Health Considerations for Therapy Dogs

- Creating‌ a Calm ‌and Confident Environment for Hospital Comfort ‌Visits

– Creating a Calm and Confident⁣ Environment for Hospital Comfort Visits

Creating a calm and confident environment for hospital comfort visits.

When it comes ⁢to hospital comfort visits, creating a⁢ serene and secure environment​ is essential to ensure a positive experience ‌for both patients and their loved ones. Here are a few strategies ⁣that can help achieve a calm and confident atmosphere:

  • Thoughtful interior design: A soothing color palette, comfortable furniture, and natural elements such as plants can‍ contribute to a calming ⁣ambience in ​hospital spaces. Creating warm ​and inviting waiting areas can help visitors feel​ more at ease during their stay.
  • Mindful staff training: Empathy and compassion can go a long way in easing anxiety. Training hospital‌ staff to exhibit active ⁣listening, demonstrate patience, ⁣and provide clear explanations can help create a confident environment where⁢ visitors feel heard and understood.
  • Enhancing communication: Keeping families and ‍friends informed about the patient’s condition and progress can alleviate worry and​ uncertainty. Regular updates, accessible information, and an approachable communication system can provide reassurance and build trust.
  • Comfortable amenities: Offering comforting amenities such as ⁣cozy blankets, fresh beverages, and soothing music ‍can greatly contribute to creating a calming experience for visitors. Familiar touches and small gestures of hospitality help establish a sense of comfort and well-being.

By implementing these strategies, hospitals can create a tranquil and confident environment that supports the emotional well-being of everyone involved in the comfort visit process. It‌ is the combination of a considerate ambiance, compassionate staff interactions, transparent ​communication, and comforting amenities that fosters‍ a positive and reassuring atmosphere for patients and their loved ones.

- Building a Strong ‍Foundation: Basic Obedience Training for Therapy Dogs

– Building a Strong Foundation: Basic Obedience Training for Therapy Dogs

Building a strong foundation: basic ‍obedience training for therapy ​dogs.

Having a therapy dog is not only rewarding ⁣but also a ‍significant ⁤responsibility. Whether you’re considering training your own dog or introducing a new pup to the‍ world of therapy work, establishing a ⁢solid foundation ⁤in basic obedience is crucial.

Effective ​obedience⁣ training goes beyond simply teaching sit, stay, and come; it lays the groundwork for your dog to become a well-behaved and reliable companion in a variety of therapy⁣ settings. Here⁤ are some key elements to focus ⁤on:

  • Socialization: Expose your dog to various environments, people, and other ⁢animals at an early age. This⁤ helps them develop manners,‌ adaptability,⁤ and confidence while reducing the likelihood​ of fear ⁤or aggression.
  • Basic Commands: ⁤Mastering essential commands such as sit, stay, down, leave it, and loose leash walking ‌is vital for a therapy dog. These commands provide you with⁣ control and ensure your dog’s behavior is predictable and manageable in different situations.
  • Impulse Control: Teach your dog to remain⁢ calm and composed regardless of distractions. This includes‌ impulse control exercises like waiting‌ patiently, ignoring food on ‌the ground, or refraining from jumping up to greet people.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Utilize rewards such as treats, praise, and play to motivate and reinforce desired behaviors ‍ during training. Positive reinforcement builds ‍a stronger bond between you and your dog, encouraging a willingness⁣ to learn and cooperate.
  • Distraction ‌Training: ⁢ Gradually expose ⁢your dog to distractions while reinforcing their focus on you and maintaining obedience. This helps prepare them for the unpredictable and potentially stimulating environments encountered during therapy work.
  • Consistency and Patience: ⁣Consistency is⁣ key when training a therapy dog. Set clear rules and expectations, and ensure everyone who interacts with your dog follows them. Remain ‌patient throughout ⁣the training process, as it may take time for your dog to⁤ understand and master new skills.

Beyond basic obedience, therapy dogs also require specialized training‍ tailored to their future roles. However, investing time and effort into⁤ building a ‌strong foundation of obedience will set the stage for success and enable your dog to positively ‌impact the lives of others.

- Sensitizing Your Dog to Hospital⁣ Settings: Gradual ⁢Exposure and Desensitization

– Sensitizing Your Dog to Hospital Settings: Gradual Exposure ⁢and Desensitization

The process of sensitizing your dog to hospital settings involves gradual exposure ⁣and desensitization⁢ techniques. It is ⁢important to acclimate your furry friend to the sounds, smells, and sights that they may encounter during a visit to⁤ the hospital so that they feel more comfortable and less anxious ⁤in these unfamiliar surroundings.

Gradual Exposure:

  • Start by introducing your dog to the ‍concept⁢ of a hospital setting in a controlled environment, such as a quiet room in ‍your home.
  • Emphasize positive associations by offering treats, ​praise, and rewards during each exposure session.
  • Slowly increase​ the level of exposure over time, gradually introducing your dog to different aspects​ of a⁣ hospital setting, ⁣such as ‌wearing a medical gown or being around​ medical equipment.


  • Teach your dog⁤ relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or⁢ targeted commands, to help them cope ‍with potential stressors in a hospital setting.
  • Expose your dog to simulated hospital experiences, such as recorded hospital sounds ⁤or the smell of antiseptic, to desensitize them to these stimuli.
  • Work with a professional trainer or behaviorist who specializes in desensitization techniques to ensure the process is tailored to ‍your dog’s specific needs.

By gradually exposing your dog to hospital ⁣settings and using desensitization techniques, you can help alleviate their anxiety and create a more ⁣positive experience for both of you during future visits.

– Teaching Specialized Behavioral Skills:⁤ Techniques for Gentle Patient Interaction

When it comes to teaching specialized behavioral​ skills, gentle patient interaction is key. By employing effective techniques, educators can create a positive and supportive environment where individuals with special needs can thrive.⁢ Here are some valuable strategies to foster gentle patient interaction:

  • Active listening: Listening attentively and empathetically allows ‌educators to understand the needs and emotions of each student, promoting ⁣trust and cooperation.
  • Non-verbal ‍cues: Utilize⁣ body language and facial expressions to convey warmth, empathy, and understanding. This helps to establish a connection and set ⁢a calm and safe atmosphere.
  • Clear communication: Use simple language, visual aids, or ⁤ alternative communication methods , depending⁤ on the individual’s needs.⁢ This ensures that instructions and expectations are clearly understood, minimizing ⁤frustration.
  • Patience and flexibility: Recognize that individuals with special needs may require additional time and different approaches to learn and participate. ⁣Being patient ⁤and adapting teaching techniques accordingly ⁢promotes a positive learning experience.

Remember, teaching specialized behavioral skills goes beyond imparting knowledge – it involves building relationships, fostering empathy, and⁤ creating an inclusive and supportive ​learning⁣ environment for all.

– Maintaining Wellness and Hygiene: Essential Health Considerations⁢ for Therapy ‍Dogs

Maintaining‌ Wellness and Hygiene: Essential Health Considerations for Therapy Dogs

Maintaining the wellness and hygiene of therapy dogs is crucial to ensure their overall health and effectiveness ‌in providing ‌comfort and support. Here are some essential health considerations⁤ to keep in mind when caring for therapy‍ dogs:

1. Regular ⁢Veterinary Check-ups: Regular visits to the veterinarian are vital ⁣to monitor⁣ a therapy dog’s health and address any potential issues⁢ promptly. From vaccinations to parasite prevention and dental ⁤care, a thorough check-up helps keep them in optimal condition.

2. Balanced Diet and Hydration: Proper ​nutrition plays a significant role‍ in a ⁢therapy dog’s overall well-being. Providing‍ a balanced diet that meets their specific dietary ‍needs is essential. Ensuring they have access to⁢ fresh water at all times is also​ crucial to keep them hydrated.

3. Exercise and ​Mental ⁢Stimulation: Just like humans, therapy dogs need ⁣regular exercise to maintain a healthy ⁤weight and ⁣promote good cardiovascular health. Regular walks, playtime, and stimulating activities not⁢ only help keep their bodies fit⁢ but also contribute to their mental well-being.

4. Grooming and Cleanliness: ⁢Maintaining proper grooming​ and cleanliness is imperative to prevent the spread of germs and infections. Regular brushing, bathing, ‌and nail trims help keep their coats‍ healthy, while ear cleaning and dental care are equally important aspects of their hygiene routine.

5.⁢ Emotional Well-being: A therapy dog’s‍ emotional ‌well-being is as important as their physical health. They​ should receive plenty of love, attention, and ​socialization to ensure they remain happy and emotionally balanced. Regular training sessions and positive reinforcement contribute to their overall well-being and make them more effective ‌as therapy animals.

By prioritizing these essential health considerations, therapy dogs can continue to make a positive impact on the lives ​of those they support, while leading fulfilling and healthy lives‌ themselves.

1. Why are hospital comfort visits‌ important for dogs?

Hospital comfort⁤ visits allow dogs to provide emotional support to patients,⁢ improving their mental well-being and aiding in their recovery. Dogs have a unique ability ​to bring comfort ⁤and happiness to people in need, making these visits invaluable.

2. Can any dog be trained‍ for hospital comfort visits?

Not every dog is suited for hospital⁤ comfort visits. Dogs must‌ have a calm‌ and friendly⁢ temperament, be well-socialized, and able to follow basic commands. Additionally, they⁣ should be comfortable in diverse environments and be completely healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations.

3.⁤ How can I prepare ‌my dog before taking them to a hospital comfort visit?

Begin by ensuring your dog has received proper obedience training and is well-behaved around strangers. Gradually​ introduce them to new environments and people to help them‍ become more comfortable in unfamiliar settings. Regular socialization and obedience training will‌ play a crucial‍ role in your dog’s preparation.

4. What are some ‍important commands my ‌dog should know for hospital visits?

Your‍ dog should be proficient in commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “leave it,” and “down.” These commands will allow you to have better control⁢ over your dog’s behavior during the visit. Additionally, a solid “go to mat” command can help your dog stay calm and focused during their interactions with patients.

5. How should I introduce my dog to patients ⁤during a hospital comfort visit?

Always ask⁢ for‍ permission before approaching a patient and introduce your dog‌ with ⁤a calm and soothing voice. Allow patients to initiate contact with your dog and monitor both parties’ comfort levels throughout the visit. Remember, ⁣safety⁤ and the well-being of the patient ⁢always come first.

6. How‍ should I handle difficult situations during a hospital comfort visit?

If your‍ dog appears stressed or agitated, calmly remove them from the ​situation and take a break. Remember to respect the boundaries and sensitivities of​ patients, and if necessary, consult the hospital staff ‍or a professional trainer‌ for⁣ guidance on handling challenging situations.

7. Are there any specific regulations or guidelines to follow during hospital comfort visits?

Each hospital may have its‌ own specific ​rules ⁤and guidelines for therapy animals, so it is essential to familiarize ⁢yourself with them.​ Generally, dogs need to be clean, well-groomed, and wear identification tags. They should also be on a leash or securely held in the ⁢presence of patients.

8. Can I train my own dog for hospital ⁤comfort visits, or should I seek professional help?

While it ⁢is possible to train your own dog for hospital‌ comfort visits, seeking professional help can greatly enhance your dog’s training and certification process. Professionals can provide valuable guidance ‌and ensure⁤ that‌ your dog is fully prepared for this specialized role, increasing their ‌effectiveness and overall safety.

As we bid‍ adieu to this guide on training dogs for⁢ hospital⁣ comfort visits, we ‌hope you are now equipped with the ‍knowledge to⁣ embark on ⁢a remarkable journey alongside your furry​ companion. The power ⁤of the ​ human-canine relationship ​ is boundless and has the potential to bring immeasurable comfort⁤ and joy to those navigating the daunting halls of a hospital.

Remember, dear reader, that​ every step you take on this adventure requires patience, understanding, and unwavering⁤ dedication. Your efforts to train your dog for hospital comfort visits will not only impact the lives​ of patients but also open up countless opportunities for your ⁣furry friend to be a beacon of hope in a⁤ world that craves warmth and compassion.

With each wagging tail, playful paw, and gentle nuzzle, your canine companion has ⁣the extraordinary ability to bring ‍smiles to faces that have seen little light in their time of struggle. Through their unwavering loyalty and unmatched intuition, dogs can transcend the bounds of language, breaking barriers and forging connections that words alone ⁢often fail⁢ to ⁤achieve.

As you enter the⁤ threshold of hospitals, may you ⁣approach each interaction with an open heart and an unwavering commitment‌ to serve as a source of solace and tranquility. Be mindful ​of the unique needs and limitations of each patient, as ‌well as the rules and regulations set in place by healthcare facilities.

In the realm of hospital comfort visits, remember that you and⁣ your ​four-legged partner are mere players in a symphony of healing. Embrace the harmony ​of your ⁣surroundings, empathize with‌ the struggles you⁢ encounter, and become the gentle melody that can ease the burdens carried⁣ within these walls.

Lastly, let ‌us appreciate the remarkable⁢ bonds​ forged between humans and‍ animals, acknowledging the profound impact they have on the spiritual and emotional well-being of⁤ patients, caregivers, and⁣ healthcare professionals. Through your dedication, you have become a catalyst ‍for healing, weaving ‍a tapestry of empathy and understanding within the‍ cold corridors of healthcare⁤ institutions.

So, dear reader, take this knowledge‌ and embark on your journey with enthusiasm and compassion. Know that by training your dog for hospital comfort visits, you are partaking in a noble endeavor that ⁢will leave an indelible mark on the lives of those in need.

May your steps⁢ be guided by empathy, love,‌ and tireless dedication as you and your remarkable companion bring light and warmth to those who ‍seek solace amidst the sometimes ‍daunting landscape of hospitals.‍ Happy training and may your shared journey be filled with countless moments of comfort, understanding, and​ immeasurable⁣ joy.​

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  1. Required Certification for Service Dog Training for Hospital

    TDI is an organization that regulates, tests and registers therapy dogs and their volunteer owners for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, schools and wherever therapy dogs are needed. TDI registers all breeds of dogs 1 year old and over with proper immunizations. Handlers under 18 must have a parent or guardian present.

  2. Training your dog to be a therapy dog

    The first step to becoming a therapy dog is passing the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. This test evaluates a dogs’ manners and obedience, and dogs that pass will receive a certificate. Animal Humane Society offers the test at our Golden Valley location, though it is currently limited to training school students.

  3. How to Train a Dog for Hospital Comfort Visits

    Always ask⁢ for‍ permission before approaching a patient and introduce your dog‌ with ⁤a calm and soothing voice. Allow patients to initiate contact with your dog and monitor both parties’ comfort levels throughout the visit. Remember, ⁣safety⁤ and the well-being of the patient ⁢always come first. 6.