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What Makes a Good Therapy Dog?

We would like to inform our readers about what it means to be a therapy dog. Since Sarah’s amazing dog Simba is a Certified Therapy Dog, it gives us great pleasure to spread the word and let you know how rewarding this experience can be. And FYI – TDI [Therapy Dogs International] does not discriminate based on looks, age, or size; all are welcome to apply!


simbaA therapy dog…

  • is a dog with an outstanding temperament
  • tolerates other animals
  • wants to visit with people
  • is good with children
  • gets along with other dogs

Here are many of the items that are included in the TDI evaluation:

  • Walk comfortably by owner’s side, without pulling
  • Be left in a room for a short time without the owner
  • Walk past other dogs, without showing aggression or over-exuberance
  • Walk past a plate of food on the floor, without showing much interest
  • Get brushed, without showing anger or nervousness
  • Walk past wheelchairs and canes (etc), without shying away
  • Sit and stay, while the owner stands at a distance

Simba took his test in White Plains in late 2010, at the ripe old age of twelve. This test is not impossible – in fact, if you have a friendly dog with good manners, then that dog has an excellent chance of passing! Simba passed “with flying colors,” according to his evaluator. Oooh yeah, he’s a pro.  


After passing the evaluation, the owner must send TDI the required materials, according to the group’s website, including the evaluator’s signature on the completed test. This could take several weeks to process, since the center in NJ has hundreds of members, all of whom they keep track of. Once you and your dog receive the member materials (including a swanky red bandanna and ID card), you will call around to local places that might appreciate therapy dogs – and off you go! Simba is a current volunteer at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and at a nursing home in New Haven. He adores his job, and the patients adore him! It’s a fabulous job for any dog, and it’s a worthwhile commitment for any owner who has the time!

Best of luck to all, and we look forward to hearing from any other Therapy Dogs with stories to tell. Click here for an informative link, via the ASPCA.


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