AKC Therapy Dog Program
What is a Therapy Dog?
Therapy dogs are dogs who go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
From working with a child who is learning to read to visiting a senior in assisted living, therapy dogs and their owners work together as a team to improve the lives of other people.
Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are dogs who are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help a person who has a disability. An example of a service dog is a dog who guides an owner who is blind, or a dog who assists someone who has a physical disability. Service dogs stay with their person and have special access privileges in public places such as on planes, restaurants, etc. Therapy dogs, the dogs who will be earning the AKC Therapy Dog™ title, do not have the same special access as service dogs.
It is unethical to attempt to pass off a therapy dog as a service dog for purposes such as flying on a plane or being admitted to a restaurant.
The Purpose of This Program
The purpose of this program is to recognize AKC dogs and their owners who have given their time and helped people by volunteering as a therapy dog and owner team.
- The AKC Therapy Dog™ program awards official AKC titles to dogs who have worked to improve the lives of the people they have visited.
- AKC Therapy Dog titles can be earned by dogs who have been certified by AKC recognized therapy dog organizations and have performed the required number of visits.
- AKC does not certify therapy dogs; the certification and training is done by qualified therapy dog organizations. The certification organizations are the experts in this area and their efforts should be acknowledged and appreciated.
Why Did AKC Start A Therapy Dog Title?
AKC has received frequent, ongoing requests from dog owners who participate in therapy work to "acknowledge the great work our dogs are doing." Many of our constituents are understandably proud of their dogs. Earning an AKC Therapy Dog title builds on the skills taught in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy® and Canine Good Citizen® programs which creates a sound and friendly temperament needed by a successful therapy dog.
Therapy Dog Titles
- AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN)
Must have completed 10 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog (THD)
Must have completed 50 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA)
Must have completed 100 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX)
Must have completed 200 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD)
Must have completed 400 visits.
How to Earn the Title: Qualifications
To earn an AKC Therapy Dog™ title, you and your dog must meet the following criteria:
- Certified/registered by an AKC recognized therapy dog organization.
- Perform the required number of visits for the title for which you are applying. For your convenience in helping you track your visits, you can use the Therapy Dog Record of Visits Sheet.
- NOTE: A VISIT IS ONE DAY. If you see multiple clients over a 2 hour time period on the same day, that is ONE VISIT. For each day/date at a facility, no matter how many clients one sees, this counts as 1 visit.
- AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD). Must have completed 400 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX). Must have completed 200 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA). Must have completed 100 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog (THD). Must have completed 50 visits.
- AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN). Must have completed 10 visits.
- The dog must be registered or listed with AKC.
All dogs are eligible to earn AKC Therapy Dog titles, including purebreds and mixed breeds. To earn an AKC Therapy Dog title, dogs must be registered or listed with AKC and have a number. This includes any one of these three options:
- AKC Registration Number (purebreds with registered parents)
This is often known as the "AKC papers" provided to a dog owner by a breeder. If you have received a registration paper from your breeder or previous owner you can register online.
- PAL Number (purebreds not registerable)
PAL is Purebred Alternative Listing. PAL (formerly called ILP) is a program that allows unregistered dogs of registerable breeds to compete in AKC Performance and Companion Events. PAL dogs include the many wonderful purebred dogs who may have come from shelters or rescue without AKC registration.
- Canine Partners Number (for mixed breeds or non registerable)
Used by mixed breed dogs (and dogs otherwise not registered with AKC such as some purebreds from other countries). A special Canine Partners Therapy Dog Enrollment Form is available for mixed breed Therapy Dogs needing to obtain a dog number in order to receive their Therapy Dog Title. This form must be submitted together with the Therapy Dog Title Application.
Apply for an AKC Therapy Dog Title
If your dog meets the criteria and you would like to apply for an AKC Therapy Dog title, please complete this AKC Therapy Dog Title Application and mail to the AKC address shown on the application with a $20 recording fee.
AKC accepts the following forms of payment: Check or money order made out to "American Kennel Club" and Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express.
If your application is not approved due to not meeting the qualifications, you will be notified and your fee will be refunded.
Therapy Dog Organizations
Since the 1980's, there have been significant advances in the field of animal assisted therapy and the use of therapy dogs. Organized therapy dog groups provide educational material to volunteers, they screen both volunteers and dogs, and they provide liability insurance for when the dog and handler are volunteering in a therapy setting.
Therapy dog certification organizations are the experts in this field. It is their dedication that has organized and advanced the work of therapy dogs and their efforts should be acknowledged and appreciated. The following certification organizations are recognized by the AKC. A dog must be certified by one of these organizations to be eligible to receive the AKC Therapy Dog title.
AKC would like to thank the following national therapy dog registration/certification organizations for their assistance during the launching of the AKC Therapy Dog title:
- Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs
- Love on a Leash
- Pet Partners (previously Delta Society)
- Therapy Dogs Incorporated (TD Inc.)
- Therapy Dogs International (TDI)
Therapy Groups Listed Alphabetically
- 4Paws Learning and Wellness Center (San Francisco & greater North Bay area)
- Aggieland Pets With A Purpose (Brazos Valley area, TX)
- Agility Ability (Central Ohio)
- Animal Samaritans (Palm Springs area, CA)
- Austin Dog Alliance (Greater Austin, TX)
- BARK (Beach Animals Reading with Kids) (California, Arizona)
- Baylor Health Care System Animal Assisted Therapy
- Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, Inc. (western Massachusetts)
- Canine Assisted Therapy (Florida)
- Canine Caregivers (Salisbury, NC area)
- Canine Therapy Corps (Chicago)
- Caring Canines Therapy Dog Club of Southern VT (southern VT)
- Caring Canines Therapy Dogs, Inc. (Lake County, FL)
- Caring Critters, Inc. (Houston Metropolitan area)
- Carolina Canines for Service (Wilmington & Raleigh, NC)
- CHAMP Assistance and Therapy Dogs, Inc. (Greater St. Louis)
- Champs Foundation (Broken Arrow/Tulsa, OK area)
- Comfort Caring Canines Therapy Dogs, Inc. (southeastern PA, NJ, DE, MD)
- Companion Animal Association of AZ., Inc. (Greater Phoenix, Maricopa County)
- Companion Animal Program (Cape Cod, MA)
- Companions, Inc. (Fairbanks, AK)
- Creature Comfort Pet Therapy (northern New Jersey)
- Creatures and Kids, Inc. (Oklahoma)
- Divine Canines (Greater Austin, TX)
- Dog B.O.N.E.S. Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts
- Dogs On Call (DOC): An Easter Seals Program (central and southeastern Alabama)
- Domesti-PUPS (southeast NE & MO)
- East Bay SPCA PALS (Pets and Love Shared) (Bay area of CA)
- Fairfax Pets on Wheels (Fairfax County, VA)
- Faithful Friends Pet Therapy (DE and southeast PA)
- Faithful Paws Pet Therapy (Houston, TX)
- Federación Canófila de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)
- Fidos for Freedom (Baltimore, Greater Washington)
- Fox Valley Therapy Dogs (Kendall, Kane, Dupage, Will counties-IL)
- Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services (California -- San Jose and Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties)
- Furry Friends Therapy Dogs, Inc. (Coos County, OR)
- H.A.B.I.T. (Human Animal Bond in Tennessee)
- Happy Tails Pet Therapy (Atlanta)
- Healing Heart Therapy Dogs , Inc. (Nebraska)
- HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response (national program)
- Howard County Paws 4 Comfort
- Human Animal Link of Oklahoma Foundation (HALO) (Oklahoma)
- Humane Hearts Pet Therapy (Forsyth County (GA) area)
- Humane Society of Broward County (FL)
- Humane Society of Southern Arizona Pet VIP Program (southern AZ)
- Independent Therapy Dogs, Incorporated (Select cities in CA, NV, and WA. See web page.)
- Intermountain Therapy Animals and the Reading Education Assistance Dogs® (R.E.A.D. ®)
- Kathleen C. Cailloux Humane Society of Kerrville (Kerrville, TX)
- KPETS-Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services (southeast/central PA, northeast MD)
- Lend A Heart Animal Assisted Therapy (Greater Sacramento, CA)
- Lend A Paw Therapy Dogs (Greater Los Angeles/Santa Clarita, CA)
- Literacy Education Assistance Pups (L.E.A.P.) (Delaware, Salisbury, MD)
- Love on 4 Paws (Greater Los Angeles, CA)
- Lutheran Medical Center Pet Therapy (Greater Denver,CO)
- Marin Humane Society SHARE (Marin County, CA)
- Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association (MVPTA) (Dayton, Ohio and surrounding counties)
- National Capital Therapy Dogs, Inc. (Washington DC, Baltimore, eastern MD, southern VA)
- Ohio 4-H Pet Pals (state of Ohio)
- Olympic Mountain Pet Pals
- Orange County SCPA PAWS (Orange County, CA)
- Patchogue Rotary AAT, Inc. (Long Island, NY)
- PawPals (Greater Tulsa, OK Metro)
- Paws4people Foundation
- Paws 4 for Hearts Working Therapy Dogs (Spring Branch, TX)
- Paws Across Texas (PAT) (TX: Greater Dallas and Fort Worth)
- Paws & Hearts Therapy Dogs (Coachella Valley/Palm Springs, CA)
- Paws and Think, Inc. (Greater Indianapolis, IN)
- P.A.W.S. Anne Arundel County (MD)
- Paws As Loving Support (Sonoma/Marin counties, CA)
- PAWS Assistance & Therapy Dogs (Naples, FL)
- Paws for Friendship, Inc.
- Paws for Healing, Inc. (northern CA-Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Marin counties)
- PAWS for People (Pet Assisted Visitation Volunteer Services, Inc.) (Parts of DE, PA, MD, NJ)
- Paws'itive Teams, Inc. (San Diego County, CA)
- PAWS of CNY, Inc (central NY)
- Paws with Love Therapy Dogs, Inc. (Lawton, OK)
- Peninsula Humane Society Pet Assisted Therapy (San Mateo and norther Santa Clara counties, CA)
- People Animals Love (PAL) (DC metropolitan area, northern VA, MD)
- Pet-A-Pet Club, Inc. (Greater Detroit/Ann Arbor, MI)
- Pet Prescription Team (southern CA)
- Pet Therapy of the Ozarks, Inc. (50 mile radius from Springfield, MO)
- Pets and People Foundation, Inc. (eastern Massachusetts)
- Pets for Life, Inc.
- Pets Helping People, Inc.
- Pets on Wheels (Maryland)
- Pets on Wheels of Delmarva (DE, MD, VA)
- Pets on Wheels of Scottsdale, Inc. (AZ)
- Project Canine – Connecting Canines (Seattle, WA area)
- Project PUP (Pets Uplifting People) (Tampa Bay area, FL)
- Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy, Inc. (Chicago and surrounding counties)
- Reading with Rover
- San Diego (CA) Humane Society Therapy Dogs
- San Francisco SPCA AAT Program (San Francisco)
- Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society Pet Outreach (Santa Fe, NM)
- SC Dogs Therapy Group (upstate of SC, north GA)
- Share-A-Pet, Org., Inc. (So. FL, San Francisco area, upstate NY)
- Sit Stay Read (Chicago, IL)
- S.M.A.R.T. Dogs (Aladema and Contra Costa Counties, CA)
- SoCal Therapy Dogs (Riverside, CA)
- Sonoma Humane Society Pet Assisted Therapy Program (Sonoma County, CA)
- Southwest Canine Corps of Volunteers, Inc. (NM: Greater Albuquerque and Santa Fe)
- SPCA of Erie County (NY) Paws For Love
- St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center (Paws for People Program) (northern NJ)
- St. John Ambulance's Therapy Dog Program (Canada)
- Sunshine Teams, Mendocino Coast Humane Society (Mendocino Coast of CA)
- Support Dogs, Inc./TOUCH Program (MO: St. Louis metropolitan area)
- Tails of Aloha (Hawaii)
- Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Animal Therapy
- TDK Therapy and Service Dogs (Charlotte, NC)
- The Good Dog Foundation (NY, NJ, CT, MA)
- Therapet Foundation (Greater east Texas)
- TheraPet, Inc. (central NJ, CT, NY)
- Therapeutic Paws of Canada (Canada)
- Therapy Animals of San Antonio, Inc. (Greater San Antonio, TX)
- Therapy Dogs United (northwest PA and western NY)
- Therapy Pals of Golden Triangle (Denton County, TX)
- Therapy Pets Unlimited (Baltimore, MD)
- TherapyPets (CA: San Francisco-Oakland Bay area)
- Therapy Tails Ontario (Ontario, Canada)
- Tony La Russa's ARF Pet Hug Pack (Contra Costa County, CA)
- U.S.A. Therapy Dogs, Inc. (Central MI, FL, MA, NY, WI)
- Valley Humane Society Therapy Dog Program
- Virginia Tech Helping PAWS (VA Tech area)
- Visiting Pet Program (Metropolitan New Orleans)
- Vitas Healthcare Program 98 (SF Bay area)
- Vitas Hospice Paw Pals (Dayton, OH area)
- WAGS Across Texas, LLC (Greater San Antonio, TX)
- WAGS Pet Therapy of Kentucky, Inc. (KY)
- WCA Hospital (Southern Tier, Chautauqua County, NY)
- West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. (Greater Western MI)
To earn the AKC Therapy Dog™ title, you and your dog must have completed at least 50 therapy visits. These visits must be documented with time, date, location, and a signature of a staff person at the facility (e.g., school, hospital, etc.). This documentation can be achieved by submitting one of the following:
- Therapy Dog Record of Visits Form (you may use the AKC form or one of your own), or,
- Certificate or wallet card from a certifying organization indicating the dog has made 50 or more visits or,
- Letter from the facility (nursing home, school, hospital, etc.) where the dog served as a therapy dog. Letters must be on facility letterhead. Contact information for verification purposes should include facility name, address and contact person's name, phone number and/or email address. For a sample letter, click here.
How to Get Your Wheaten Into Therapy
By Dorice Stancher
On June 27, 2011 the American Kennel Club made history again by recognizing the contributions of therapy dogs and creating the AKC Therapy Dog™ title. Therapy dog certification organizations have been credited with advancing the work of visiting dogs and are experts in the field. They screen volunteers, provide educational material, arrange visits, and provide liability insurance and guidance for those interested in this selfless act of kindness.
According to the AKC website, in order to be eligible to receive this award they must be certified/registered by an AKC recognized therapy dog organization, perform at least 50 visits, and registered or listed with the AKC. This can be done through the AKC registration number for purebreds, like our Wheaten Terriers. There is also the Purebred Alternative Listing or PAL program and the AKC Canine Partners Program. Visits are documented using the AKC form which is downloadable from the website, through verification from a recognized organization by wallet card, or a letter from the facility (details and an example are on the website).
Wheaten Terriers have a penchant for making friends wherever they go and it should come as no surprise that they excel at therapy work provided they receive obedience training and have the right temperament. The AKC Star Puppy program and later the Canine Good Citizen® or CGC are great places to start especially since the latter is a foundation for many of the evaluating tests of the different approved organizations. What makes therapy work testing different is the observation of both dog and handler, working as a team and interacting with others. When testing, evaluators look to see not only if the dog is sociable, but also to see if the owner handles their dog in a way that minimizes risk, if they are able to "control" the visit, and interact appropriately with those they visit.
When introducing dogs to the various pieces of medical equipment in a training setting, care should be taken to keep things positive. Trainers will often lure dogs to approach the strange item, whether it be a wheelchair, walker, four-footed cane, or crutches, then click and treat. The goal is to build confidence around these items so that the dog is relaxed and can do the job it was meant to do. Also a firm grasp of the "leave it" command can be a lifesaver since pills and other foreign objects may appear on a hospital or nursing home floor.
While it takes time to train and certify a dog for this work, it is well worth the effort to see the smiles on the faces of those you meet. There is nothing quite like it.
American Kennel Club
Performance Events Dept - Therapy Dogs
8051 Arco Corporate Drive
Raleigh, NC 27617