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AKC Therapy Dog

AKC Therapy Dog

The moment a volunteer with a therapy dog walks into a room, you can instantly feel a change in mood. All eyes focus on them, as smiles spread across everyone’s faces. Therapy dogs are NOT service dogs. Service dogs are dogs who are specifically trained to perform a task or tasks to assist a person with a disability or impairment. A service dog must be with their person at all times and has special access privileges in public places.

Therapy Dog is an AKC program which recognizes the necessary therapy work performed by dogs through accepted organizations based on the number of visits. Therapy work involves volunteers who schedule visits to various facilities and locations such a nursing homes, classrooms, libraries, assisted living centers, hospices, funeral homes, schools, shelters even courtrooms.

Whether they’re working with a child who is learning to read, visiting a patient in a hospital or a senior in assisted living, therapy dogs and their owners work together as a team to improve the lives of other people. A dog can provide a valuable sense of reassurance, joy, or calmness to people experiencing stressful, lonely or depressing situations or general times in their life.

  • Get Started +

    Earning a therapy dog title is rooted in the number of visits made: The more visits you make, the more titles you can earn:

    • 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.
    • AKC Therapy Dog Supreme (THDS) – Must have completed 600 visits.

    The first step to enrolling in the program is to have our dog trained and certified by a qualified therapy dog organization. Then, start keeping a record of your visits, for which you can use the Therapy Dog Record of Visits Sheet. Just make sure you understand what constitutes a visit:

    How to Count Visits

    • A visit is one-day per facility/agency.
    • For a single facility: As an example, if you see multiple clients over a 2 hour time period on the same day, that is one visit. [In a hospital, you visit Mr. Jones, Ms. Smith, Mr. Roberts, Ms. White, this is one visit, not 4 visits].
    • For each day/date at a facility, no matter how many clients one sees, this counts as 1 visit. If you take a break and return to the same facility on the same day, this counts as one visit.
    • For multiple facilities: Example: You do therapy work on your day off. In the morning, you go to an assisted living facility. You take your dog home at lunch to rest. In the afternoon, you go to a school. This is 2 visits, no matter how many clients you saw per facility.
    • When a therapy dog works with a professional (e.g., psychologist, counselor, police officer), a visit counts as 1 day. The number of clients seen in one day is not counted. Professionals must meet the same certification requirements as other volunteers to earn AKC Therapy Dog titles.
    • For virtual visits, a visit counts as one day. The number of clients seen in one day is not counted. Post-covid, virtual visits may be used in cases where clients are unable to see the dog and human volunteer in-person (e.g., at-risk medically). For virtual visits to count, there must be an agency that can provide documentation.

    When you’re ready to apply for an AKC Therapy Dog title, just complete this AKC Therapy Dog Title Application and mail to the AKC address shown on the application with recording fee. If your application is not approved for some reason, we will notify you and refund your fee.

  • Title Eligibility +

    To earn an AKC Therapy Dog™ title, you and your dog must:

    1. Be certified/registered by an AKC recognized therapy dog organization.
    2. Perform the required number of visits for the title for which you are applying.
      • 600 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Supreme (THDS) title.
      • 400 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD) title.
      • 200 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX) title.
      • 100 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) title.
      • 50 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog (THD) title.
      • 10 visits to earn the AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN) title.

    In order for dogs to receive a title, owners must have a dog number in our records so the titling information can be recorded. See the types of numbers available and which one best fits your situation.

  • AKC Therapy Dog Products +

    Congratulations on your AKC Therapy Dog! Now that your dog is a working therapy dog, there are some AKC products you can purchase that showcase and acknowledge the great work you and your dog are doing. Mail the AKC Therapy Dog Order Form to American Kennel Club, Performance Dept., 8051 Arco Corporate Drive, Raleigh, NC 27617, or fax it to (919) 816-3905.

    The AKC Therapy Dog magnet and towel are also available in the AKC Shop.