Register a Therapy Dog

A therapy dog is a pet dog owned by a handler. The handler and the dog are registered as a team with a Therapy Dog organization such as Pet Partners. Therapy Dogs work in places such as hospitals, assisted living centers, and children’s reading programs to provide affection, comfort, and emotional support to people of all ages. A therapy dog is not trained as an individual service dog, and does not have full public access as the ADA affords to a trained service dog.

A great therapy dog...

  • Is comfortable being crowded by a group of people
  • Is people-oriented/sociable, friendly and confident
  • Will initiate contact, stay engaged, make eye contact, and allow their behaviors to be re-directed
  • Is able to cope with stressful situations
  • Knows how to respect personal boundaries; doesn’t jump up on people
  • Is non-aggressive towards animals and people
  • Is comfortable being touched, at times awkwardly
  • Is controllable, predictable and reliable
  • Is well-mannered during interactions with other animals
  • Is reliable despite distractions
  • Is able to be cued from different positions
  • Is able to disregard food or toys on cue, i.e. with a “leave it” command
  • Is comfortable around health care equipment

Dogs which have been trained to aggressively protect and/or been encouraged to bite, even if it is a component of a dog sport (e.g., Schutzhund), are not eligible.

Dogs must be at least one year old and have lived in the owner’s home for at least six months before evaluating.

Your dog must have good foundational obedience skills including a reliable “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “come when called” and “leave it”. Your animal should be able to walk at your side with a loose leash. Precise obedience skills are not required, however the handler must have control of their animal while visiting. You will need to work on being observant, appear to be working as a team, anticipating your animal’s responses, behavior and positions, and redirecting, as needed. If you feel you need more training, it is not mandatory, but recommended that both you and your animal enroll in a positive-reinforcement dog obedience course.

There are several different organizations that will register Therapy Dogs including Pet Partners, Therapy Dogs Incorporated, Therapy Dogs International, and Love On A Leash.  There are Pet Partner evaluators and a Pet Partner instructor in Whatcom County. Workshops and evaluations are offered frequently.