Does Your Dog Have Therapy Dog Potential?

You may have seen a therapy dog (aka comfort dog) working at a nursing home or serving to calm people in a disaster area. Comfort dogs were recently in the news doing what they do best at the scene of the 4th of July mass shooting in Highland Park, IL. The Lutheran Church Charities provided 13 Golden Retrievers and their handlers to comfort survivors of this tragedy.

So, you know therapy dogs do good work, and you might be thinking this is something you and your dog would like to do, but how do you know if your dog has therapy dog potential? After all, how your dog interacts with you and your family is not a good indication of their suitability for this work. Comfort dogs must remain calm in a wide variety of environments, and around a broad spectrum of people, children and other dogs. They must also be obedient and like to be petted and hugged. There will be unfamiliar scents and unfamiliar equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs and so on.

If your dog is still a puppy, this is the opportunity to socialize them well. Take your puppy to the coffee shop, the dog park, your child’s school and anywhere else you can to get them interacting with as many people as possible. Most therapy dog organizations require their canine members to be over one year old. Golden Retrievers usually have a great disposition for this, but any breed or age of adult dog can be a therapy dog if they meet the basic requirements.

If you have an adult dog, and think he or she could be a fit, here is an overview of the requirements:

  1. Must be calm when encountering different people, dogs, places, objects, equipment, and surfaces.
  2. Must be obedient and pass AKC Good Canine Citizen training.
  3. Must pass formal therapy dog training.
  4. Must register with a national therapy dog organization.

This may seem like a lot of work but will be well worth it to bring joy to people in need. To learn more about this, visit or search therapy dog training on YouTube.