Therapy pets are  often used in health care, social, educational, and recreational settings. In health care, therapy pets help facilitate physical and psychological sessions with patients of all ages, whether a psychological counseling session in which a patient feels more free to speak with an animal in the room, or a round of physical therapy in which the patient is encouraged to groom or walk a pet. 

Therapy animals can also be used in hospices, nursing homes, hospitals, short-term care facilities, and even residential dwellings to facilitate therapeutic interaction. Therapy animals visit patients, who are encouraged to pet, interact, and play with them. These interactions often result in the improved physical health and mental well-being of the patient. 

The Benefits of Pet Therapy

The benefits of pet therapy can work both ways. The people who provide pet therapy services often speak about how rewarding it is for them. Even better, pets and people of any age can volunteer in a therapeutic capacity. Some organizations even prefer to provide pet therapy to senior citizens using older petsfurther proof that age doesnt matter when love is involved.

How To Get Your Pet Certified

If a caregiver and animal would like to volunteer as a therapy pet team, there are several large groups that offer training and certification programs. However, no single national organization can certify your pet for all types of therapy.  

Depending on where a pet will visit, local certifications may be required in place of, or in addition to, a national certification. Many hospitals or other therapy locations will offer their own certification or training classes or will have certain requirements for pet therapy teams to complete prior to volunteering. Individuals should research the types of certification, training, or other requirements needed to determine where their pets would provide the best "fit."

NCA Therapy Dog Information

What Assistance Animals Do

Assistance animals guide dogs for the visually impaired, hearing dogs for the hearing impaired, and service dogs for the disabled, to name a few are specially trained to help humans who have physical or mental disabilities. These animals can be trained to open a door, turn on lights, and even alert the authorities to a medical emergency. They live with their caregivers to offer round-the-clock assistance. Most of these animals attend special classes and have to pass tests to be classified as "assistance animals," and some are specially raised from infancy with trainers or handlers.

 Recommended reading/resources:

AKC Therapy Dog

Delta Society



The Canine Good Citizen: Every Dog Can Be One by Jack & Wendy Volhard

Therapy Pets: The Animal-Human Healing Partnership by Jacquline J. Crawford & Karen A. Pomerinke

Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog To Reach Others by Kathy Diamond Davis

Team Work: A Dog Training Manual for People with Disabilities by Stewart Nordensson & Lydia Kelly (corresponding DVD available)

Team Work II: A Dog Training Manual for People with Disabilities by Stewart Nordensson & Lydia Kelly (corresponding DVD available)​

Therapy Work