Becoming a Therapy Animal Team

The Good Dog Foundation

This organization’s therapy dog teams provide services to nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and social service organizations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“Good Dog’s mission is to elevate the stature and promote society’s understanding of the therapeutic value of the human-animal bond,” says Moschell Coffey, director of strategic growth, communications and operations.

The Good Dog Foundation not only registers your team but also certifies you. This means the Foundation itself helps train your dog and can guarantee that you are trained to a certain level.

To be eligible as a team, all dogs must be at least 6 months old and have a calm temperament. They should be outgoing, loving and gentle in their interactions with people. All teams attend between five to 11 weeks of training, which includes the following requirements:

1. Prescreening application and evaluation

All teams must fill out a prescreening application that is forwarded to a trainer in your region for review. The trainer in your region will then set up a free in-person evaluation. During this session, your dog’s behavior and relationship with you as the handler are evaluated. Once you pass this, you’ll be able to move on to classes.

2. Therapy I and II classes

In Therapy I class, you and your dog will receive training in basic obedience skills and receive an introduction to therapy work. After passing this class, teams move on to Therapy II, which teaches you how to operate in a therapy environment.

Anyone graduating from the Therapy II class, which costs approximately $265, receives certification, visit coordination services, and insurance for one year. After the first year, dogs re-certify by a visit observation, in-person trainer evaluation, and a yearly vet health form. The cost for annual re-certification, which includes continued visit coordination and insurance, is $85.

3. Veterinary exam

After successfully passing both classes, dogs must be cleared for work by a vet who assesses your dog and his medical and vaccination history.

Once this exam is passed, you will be a certified therapy dog team. During your first few visits, a Foundation trainer will accompany and guide you to make sure you’re ready to operate in a therapy setting.

Once you’re a team, you’ll need to get recertified every year.


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