Become A Therapy Dog Team

Become A Volunteer Therapy Dog Team

To see a frown become a smile, tears dry, eyes light up, or an unsteady hand reach out to pet our dog... these are but a few examples of the powerful moments between a therapy dog and a human needing comfort.
Mac and Ned

SandraChasetricksMDDCarol & Bernie Nancy & Blaze Eagle Middle School 20160502NW Pets 201605

Bernie NW PetsDawnFenCGC

Our Goal

Our goal is to ensure that our therapy dogs enjoy visiting people, and that they are friendly, gentle and calm around people and other animals. Good manners, basic obedience skills, calmness and self-control around other animals or strangers, loud noises or unusual situations is required.
It is very important to be objective about your dog’s personality and skills to determine whether or not you believe that your dog is suited for volunteering as a therapy dog. Read more about what it takes to be a therapy dog. Every therapy dog team needs to be registered with an organization that provides liability insurance covering you and your dog against claims made by facilities or other locations, and the people being visited. At Helping Idaho Dogs, we require our therapy dog teams to use Alliance of Therapy Dogs ATD).
Our therapy dog teams are required to use positive, compassionate, no fear or intimidation training methods. Positive, compassionate training methods enable you to train your dog while rewarding your dog for good behavior. As a result, you build a strong relationship with your dog, while providing positive experiences that motivate your dog.
As a volunteer, you will need to attend some of our workshops and classes for therapy dog teams each year to maintain your skills and training.
  • Information about training classes can be found on our website here.
  • The Helping Idaho Dogs’ calendar on our website displays all of our events and training classes.
Becoming a therapy dog team can be handled on your own, or through an organization such as Helping Idaho Dogs, Inc.‘s Healing Paws Program.

Becoming a Healing Paws Program therapy dog team

The steps listed below are for people that would like to become a Healing Paws Program (HPP) volunteer therapy dog team. The purpose of these requirements is to guarantee that our therapy dog teams are well-trained, calm, polite and mannerly, that the volunteer’s interests are taken into account, and that our process protects the vulnerable people that are visited by our teams.
Read more about the advantages of being a HPP therapy dog team or member.
It is important to keep in mind that not every team is a good fit for therapy dog volunteering. If this is the case, the Program Director will explain to you the reasons behind this decision.

Our Process:

  1. Contact the HPP Director at therapydogs@helpingidahodogs.org to schedule an initial meeting, evaluation and to explain our process. You will be emailed the Helping Idaho Dogs, Inc.’s Volunteer Handbook and the Healing Paws Program’s policies.
    • Fill out and sign the handbook and policies.
    • Return the signed copies to the HPP Director in order to be approved as a new volunteer. You will be notified after the application has been reviewed.
  2. All of our therapy dog teams are required to pass the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test requirements. Read more about the CGC test.
  3. Attend training with your dog to prepare for the CGC test. 
  4. Work with the HPP Director to insure that you are ready to take the testing, and where to take it.
    • You can find a person certified to take the CGC test on the AKC's website or from Helping Idaho Dogs. Helping Idaho Dogs gives the CGC testing occasionally, depending upon need and the number of applicants.
  5. Pass the CGC test.
  6. Our volunteer therapy dog teams are required to pass a fingerprint state and federal background check through the Idaho State Police. This step can be done early on to prevent having to wait for the results, which can take several weeks.
    • Currently, the fingerprinting costs $10 and the background check costs $38.50. Both are paid for by the volunteer, and payable to Helping Idaho Dogs, Inc.
    • The HPP Director will assist you through the background process when you are ready to proceed with this step. Helping Idaho Dogs, Inc. has qualified under a national program that lowers the cost of the background check for our volunteers.
    • Once the HPP Director receives the results, you will be notified about passing or failing the background check. The Healing Paws Program has a process in place if you disagree with the decision that is reached.
    • Facilities may require their volunteers to have another background check processed. In these instances, the facility pays for the background check.
  7. During this process, the HPP Director will be observing you and your dog in different environments and situations.
    • Recommendations will be given to you throughout the process, and you are expected to obtain training to resolve any issues.
  8. Meet with the HPP Director to identify your interests, types of locations and what environments will be a good fit for you and your dog.
  9. Prepare for and pass the Alliance of Therapy Dog (ATD) test and membership process.
    • The ATD test may be taken before or after the CGC test. It is important to note, however, that the test may only be taken up to 3 times with the same dog.
    • Become familiar with how to become an ATD member, the requirements, testing process, and applying for membership.
    • The HPP Director will assist you by locating a Tester/Observer when you are ready to schedule the test.
  10. ATD registration protects you against claims of injury, illness and property damage, made by the facilities or people being visited during a therapy dog team visit.
    • The insurance does not cover you personally or your dog if something were to happen to either of you during a visit.
    • The ATD insurance is only in effect when you are visiting as a volunteer, not during your work hours.
  11. Meet with the HPP Director after you have passed the CGC test, ATD test and the background check.
    • The Program Director will help decide whether or not you and your dog are ready to begin volunteering as a HPP therapy dog team.
    • If a decision is reached that additional training and practice is needed, then we will work with you to achieve whatever is needed.
Our HPP therapy dog teams and other members are expected to help support the Healing Paws Program and Helping Idaho Dogs, Inc., whenever possible. Examples are Healing Paws meetings and other special events that bring our therapy dog teams together to share experiences, assist with problem solving, offer specialized training, and support.
Going on therapy dog team visits is extremely rewarding and should be a meaningful experience for both you and your dog. If you have questions or would like to discuss joining our team as a volunteer, please email us at therapydogs@helpingidahodogs.org or call 208-473-8313. We look forward to hearing from you!

'Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.'   Roger A. Caras