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What dogs can be therapy dogs?
  • Your dog must consistently exhibit positive social interaction with other dogs and strangers
  • Your dog must be obedient, reliable, and predictable. 
  • Your dog must exhibit good manners in public.

Additional considerations volunteering as a therapy team:

  • While volunteering, you and your dog may be exposed to such things as unpredictable movements. loud voices, various alarms, unfamiliar or confined places with people and other dogs, unfamiliar smells, noises, and medical equipment. 
  • Volunteering will also involve time commitment for grooming and travel, conversation skills, and test your comfort level with strangers



Is there a difference between service dogs and therapy dogs?
  • THERAPY DOGS are trained to provide social or therapeutic interaction with various populations in need of emotional, physical, or psychological support.  Therapy dogs are NOT included under the American Disabilities Act.  Petting and contact is what therapy dogs are all about.   You will frequently see "Ask to pet me I am friendly" on vests identifying them as therapy dogs.
  • SERVICE DOGS are trained to perform specific behaviors in order to assist an individual owner with daily living activities.  These dogs have access to public places and transportation under the American Disabilities Act. Petting service dogs is discouraged while they are assisting their owners.  "PAWS WITH A CAUSE" are service dogs.
  • EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOGS provide affection and companionship for individuals with various mental or emotional conditions. An emotional support dog is not trained to perform specific behaviors to assist with a disability. Emotional Support Dogs may have some protections under local housing regulations but they are NOT included under the American Disabilities Act.
What are the requirements for my dog to be involved in therapy?
  • Your dog must have lived with you for at least 6 months.
  • Your dog must be current with rabies vaccination (as required by law) and immunizations.  Titers are also accepted.  Proof of negative fecal test within the past year is also required.
  • Your dog must be able to perform basic obedience commands.  "Intro to Pet Therapy" offered by West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. is a course designed to train you, the handler, and to expose your dog to activities and equipment involved in therapy work.
  • Your dog will need to be bathed and well-groomed for therapy work
  • Dogs trained for bite work are not eligible.
  • Wolf hybrids are not eligible.
  • Dogs on a raw diet are not accepted due to the increased risk of zoonitic infection.
Are there age requirements for the handler?
  •  Adult handlers of any age and their qualified dogs are eligible. A parent or guardian must accompany handlers under 16 years of age while participating in visits or activities.  (Junior membership is open to handlers beginning at age 10.)
How do I get involved in volunteering with my dog?
  • Locally, West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc., provides training, testing, and evaluations for membership which includes liability coverage for volunteer teams.
  • WMTD also accepts class members who are seeking dual registration with recognized national or international organizations.  There are therapy animal organizations all over the world - some are more recognizable than others.  Delta Society International, Inc. or Therapy Dogs, Inc. are two examples.  These organizations have specific membership requirements and provide insurance coverage for volunteers.  Evaluators for these organizations are available in Michigan as well as many other states.


Where can I volunteer with my dog?
  • Schools, nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, community and residential facilities are typical examples where therapy dog programs may be found.  Requirements to participate in a therapy animal program vary from facility to facility.  The facilities that West Michigan Therapy Dogs Inc. volunteers visits may require orientation, background checks, health certificates, or photo IDs for you and your dog.
  • West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. has been serving Michigan communities since 2001.  WMTD has a wide variety of established active programs along with a growing list of new programs.  Mentoring and support is available through WMTD in addition to guidelines provided in the members handbook.  Annual membership includes social events for you and your dog (plus access to the interactive members-only website, seminars and workshops, newsletters, special events, and insurance). 
How do I get started?
  • Locally, West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. offers pet therapy orientation classes at scheduled times throughout the year.  Click on the tab "How to Get Started" for more information.
What is "AAA" and "AAT"?
  • AAA = Animal Assisted Activities.  These visits are primarily of a social and spontaneous nature to lift the spirits or be a source of encouragement through positive interaction. 
  • AAT = Animal Assisted Therapy.  Health and human service providers are involved and set specific treatment goals for an individual patient. AATs are designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive function. 
What is CGC?
  • CGC = Canine Good Citizen®.  The CGC program began in 1989 as a certification program of the American Kennel Club.  It was designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community.  The CGC program is two-part and stresses responsible pet ownership and basic good manners for dogs.  Dogs who pass the test are eligible to receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club.
Is there a difference between certification and registration?
  • CERTIFICATION (in regard to therapy animals)  implies an organization has participated in the training or testing of a dog/handler to a certain level of behavior.
  • REGISTRATION (in regard to therapy animals) denotes the dog/handler team has been evaluated and meets specific requirements of the animal therapy organization in order to maintain eligibility for any benefits available through membership.