Pets As Therapy Dogs


Well-Known Member
I have joined a UK based charity called PAT - which organises PAT (pets as therapy) dogs to go around and visit schools,hospital wards and nursing homes.

Jukes and I have been visiting a local nursing home for just over a month now and I have been amazed at the residents response and obvious enjoyment. If anyone is intrested in doing something similar to this but has any questions or reservations I'd be more than happy to answer them for you.


Honored Member
Awesome! good on you! Isn't it amazing how people in nursing homes respond to dogs? Buddy is not certified, but, he visits a nursing home regularly (my young but paralyzed sister is in one) and Buddy behaves beautifully. The ppl there just swoon over him, and often reminisce on dogs they've had while they pet Buddy. Many nursing homes allow dogs to visit their patients.
There is something about a dog's unconditional love and acceptance that is soooo therapeutic to ppl in need or afraid or alone.

They all know and love Buddy there, and he visits each and every person in the hallway or we will visit anyone who calls out to Buddy from their bedrooms. (he's on leash, of course).
Buddy will do tricks for them, and often, as he goes down the hall, one person or another will call to him, "Buddy, wanna beer?" or "Buddy, bang!" and "Buddy, high five!" and so on, ha ha, they do!

The old lonely people love his story, how Buddy was all alone in the deathrow box and unwanted, in very poor health, there is something about that that they seem to identify with there....and they just adore him all the more. I sometimes wonder if that is the first time they've smiled that day.

I carry non-messy treats with me, and let ppl feed him treats. This is especially great for my sister to do, to help her very weak hand co-ordination, which is almost all she can move anyway. Of course, Buddy is very patient waiting for her to give him the treat, and she laughs so hard at the faces he makes... waiting for that treat.....Plus, my sister having a dog beside her wheelchair makes HER the big star that day, very popular center of att'n, which is fun for her.


Well-Known Member
Well done to you and Buddy too!

I also bring dry homemade treats (I believe it's your receipe that we use;)) and let them feed Jukes those but there is this one old Lady who always saves a small piece of chicken for Jukes (according to the staff she actually makes the effort to go and request some chicken for the dog before he comes) - which I find very sweet.

There are also a few patients who prefer not too touch Jukes but just enjoy watching him especially if he's performing tricks - so every time we go we put on a little show (literally only 4-5 tricks and then let them have a go at instructing him but I reward him because as I said they don't want too touch him).

We even have one deaf man who actually gets himself dressed up to meet the dog - he likes too have the dog sitting on a chair next too him so he can cuddle and pat and mumble to the dog as well as give him treats - Jukes absolutely adores this man and would happily sit there all day - but we do limit it to about fifteen minutes unless the man asks for more (he writes it down on a piece of paper - he doesn't normally bother unless he really wants something so I always try to give him extra time which is why he's the last patient that we see).

How often do you and Buddy visit and how long do you stay for?

Jukes and I visit twice per week once on Wednesday (we stay for an hour) and once on Saturday (we stay between 90 minutes and 2 hours) - but I know people who only stay for half an hour once a week - so you can really choose how long and how often you want to do it for - it's very flexible - but try to visit on the same day as often people will be expecting you - if you can't make it always call in advance to let the place know.

Lots of nursing homes/hospitals are actually on a waiting list to get some animals to come and visit them so chances are your local nursing home/hospital will be more than happy to have you come and visit. If you aren't going to register as part of a formal charity it's helpful to bring along vaccination certificates (especially rabies) and maybe a note from your vet stating your pet is in good health and free from fleas,ticks etc. If your not sure what your local facility requires just ring ahead and ask.


Honored Member
aH, the nursing home i go to is very casual. Absolutely anyone visiting a patient can bring their dog with them, they don't ask a thing, and the staff all welcomes all dogs. This is actually quite common place for nursing home rules, (im a nurse) to allow pets to visit. There are no rules about vaccinations, no checks are done whatsoever, no certificates req'd.
Not that i'd recommend that, no! but most nursing homes are super busy, under-staffed, etc, and they are happy to see some sunshine coming down the hall.
BUT YOU ARE RIGHT, IS GOOD IDEA TO BRING RECORDS, in case anyone DOES ever ask to see them!!
Lil ol ladies come in with their lap dogs, to visit with the other lil old ladies, etc etc. Just anyone can bring any dog into a nursing home to visit their relative or pals,
but, if unsure,
call ahead for any rules which might apply. (Hospitals IS a whole other deal, and DO have rules). Certainly, if a dog acts up, i'd bet the facility would ask the dog to not be brought back, but, i think most ppl know if their dog can/can not behave. In all my years as a nurse, i've never heard of such a case, though. I think ppl who have dogs who are human-aggressive know it, and would not want to bring their dog to a place chockful of humans.

All dogs are quite welcome there, although, i rarely ever see another dog there but Buddy, (which is WHY i can bring Buddy there, if the place were chockful of dogs, Buddy would be a brat and he could not go.)

I don't have a set up like yours, where i am in room with a bunch of people at a set time. I'm really just a visitor WITH a dog, I'm not there as official therapy dog.
I just arrive when i arrive, and the halls are usually filled with wheelchairs full of people, and some who can walk, too.
I haven't much met anyone who didn't want to pet or even snuggle Buddy up, (luckily i have trained Buddy to snuggle, he didn't knowhow when i first got him) and they ALL sort of clammor to get Buddy's attention to pet him. Maybe the one-on-one thing facilitates more freedom for them to snuggle a dog, as opposed to the group setting? who knows.
Plus, Buddy usually smells very very good, too, hard to resist i think.

So we stroll the halls on the way to my sister's room,
and everyone just loves on Buddy. As we go by bedrooms, some ppl who couldn't get up that day, or that i know from visiting there so often, will call out to see Buddy going by, and so we go in their rooms and they love on Buddy and laugh to hear whatever funny thing he has done that week.

ONce we get to my sister's room, i stay in there with her for hours sometimes, taking Buddy out for breaks outside now and then. Lol, each trip to the door, more ppl want to pet him, up and down the halls, but he LOVES it, and thinks he is all that by the end of the day!
Often other residents wander into my sister's room to say, "I heard Buddy was here!" and so on, so my sister enjoys that, too, all the visitors to her room.
On days that she gets put into her special wheelchair which holds her head up, etc, she LOVES going up and down the hall with Buddy, like a lil showoff, ha ha!!

This is a good set up for us, just super casual. I get over there at least once a week, sometims more often, sometimes wayyyyyyyyy more often depending on what is going on with her that week....

How long do i stay??? Well, depending on why i stopped by to see her, i might only stay 30 minutes to do for my sister what i need to do, (often her hair!! ha ha) drop her off one of her favorite rootbeer floats, sometimes i just pop in for half an hour, check on things.

or i might stay an afternoon. Buddy just sleeps on the floor if i do stay a long time in her room with her, so it's not like he's being handled nonstop for hours, haha! Which frankly, i don't think Buddy would mind that a bit! He LOVES EVERYONE, and does love all that praise.

It's just a visit, really. But bringing Buddy always makes it more fun for me and for her. He brings happiness along with him, into a place that doesn't quite have enough of that.

anyone reading along, who has a WELL BEHAVED human-friendly dog who actually enjoys att'n from humans, and has relatives or friends in nursing homes,
should call and ask if they can bring their dog next time they visit their relative. ONLY dogs who are SUPER COMFORTABLE with humans close by them should be brought in, as many times the halls are narrow in nursing homes, and unexpected human contact is quite comon there. If your dog does NOT enjoy ALL humans of all types, do not consider bringing your dog to visit your relative in a nursing home. It is wall to wall people there.

I'm also very very lucky that Buddy is not a human-sniffer, never was. I did not train him that, but Buddy is very respectful, and does not sniff at people. (I think that would get annoying for the residents if the dog was a major sniffer)

ALSO, ppl bringing a dog to visit their relative in a nursing home do not HAVE TO share their dog the way i do with Buddy, it is quite possible, to bring your dog in, and visit only the 1 person you went in there to see.

But both Buddy and i enjoy oldsters very much, and so we DO choose to stop and talk to everyone who wants to pet Buddy, and we will visit them for as long as they want to pet Buddy or tell me things about their old dogs of years gone by.
but we are not truly therapy dog, at all, just a visitor dog.

TOOO CUTE ABOUT THE LADY WHO STORES AWAY CHICKEN!! ADORABLE!! JUKES I THINK WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS REALLY SUPER ADMIRABLE!!!! I'm really just visiting my own sister and sharing my dog along the way,
but you are donating time and love for total strangers,
and the world needs more people like you!!!!


Active Member
I'm not sure If Bruce would be a good therapy dog. He really loves being with humans and he's a really big lap dog...not to energetic but not one of those do nothing dogs. How much training does a dog have to go through and what kind of tests to be a therapy dog?


Well-Known Member
Well loving humans is the most important trait.
If you want to join an organised charity group then they test your dog - it's really very simple
This is what the pets as therapy website says about the assessment:

"The person carrying out the assessment will check that your dog is sociable and friendly without being over-boisterous. Your dog should be calm and gentle when being groomed or stroked, without mouthing you or the grooming equipment. The examiner will also want to see how your dog reacts to a sudden noise – such as a walking stick falling to the floor. It is normal for a dog to back away, but is he confident enough to approach again readily if asked to do so?"
Above is a link to a factsheet on exactly what is expected of your dog during the test. If your dog has done the Canine Good Citizen scheme its bascially like the grooming section in there with the adddition of the noises - in Jukes test someone with a walking stick dropped it and then I was asked to bring Jukes over to them

If all you want is to visit independently then I would suggest you set up a similar test for yourself so you're happy with going and then just ring ahead and ask if you can come.

You can also check out the pets as therapy website which has loads of factsheets and advice on what to do

So really so long as your dog is friendly and confident they will make a perfect pets as therapy dog. I have found the whole experience to be very rewarding for both the patients, myself and of course Jukes :)


That is so nice i have heard of doing similar before but i dont know what the rules are in Australia NSW with non graduated guide dogs inside such buildings i would really like to do that have enjoyed working in the nursing homes before i had a dog just talking and visiting. Family or people never met. Bringing the dogs would make it that much better.


Honored Member
I would love Ra Kismet to visit elderly or sick people. He's so lovable, people adore him BUT he's also very energetic. Does anyone know where I could get him assessed? I live in Adelaide South Australia. Not sure how welcoming homes are over here. I believe dogs have to be 'approved' and wear a special coat.

Lovely to read all the posts, dogs really are amazing in the way they can help others:)

Adrianna & Calvin

Experienced Member
Delta Society has offices in Australia and the US:

Probably the three most important traits for a therapy dog are:
1) the dog is "affiliative" i.e. seeks to make a connection with new people. My dog, for example, is one of those who will sit on your foot and gaze up at you if you start petting him. People love this!
2) the dog is relatively calm. No one wants to be jumped up on, scratched, and no one likes getting barked at.
3) the dog is not aggressive in any context. Allows feet to be handled (this sounds like a strange rule, but on a therapy visit someone actually grabbed and squeezed Calvin's feet before I could stop them!), does not guard food or toys, etc. Basically your dog can be accidentally provoked in different ways and does not resort to aggression. It's not that your dog has to be startle-proof, just that the fallback is not aggression (for example, my dog would back up rather than lunge and bark).

I think the evaluation is free, so you can always take your dog to be evaluated and if he's not a good fit right now, they can tell you what you need to work on.


Honored Member
Thank you Adrianna and Calvin. I knew they had offices in the States but didn't know they were over here too:) Bookmarked site and will read tomorrow, it's very late here now:sleep:

Thank you for the basic requirements:).

Ra Kismet would pass on 1. He LOVES people and is always ready to be patted etc.
Ooops, he's not quite 'calm' he doesn't bark at people, bit unreliable on jumping, trouble is EVERYONE loves him to 'stand up' for a cuddle, (I try to say no but....) he doesn't jump but will stand up for cuddles. Doesn't scratch at all.

Nope doesn't sound strange about feet handling, some dogs are VERY nasty about that factor. He's fine but doesn't like having them dried after he's been in the plunge pool. But all other times you can handle his feet.

Doesn't guard his toys but LOL will present them for play. But in the house, he just has a small ball (soccer ball is strictly outside play only) and he loves to 'tease' with it, NOT biting of course but drops it on your lap for you to 'pop' into his mouth. LOL his older Big Bro (not by birth) has taught him not to guard toys:D

One thing, he 'knows' when to be gentle. When I first got him he was a rescue of course, 2 and a half months old. My old cat was very ill, and 8 days after I got Ra Kismet, told me he knew it was time for him to cross. He was in his fav chair (we'd been so much to the vets that I didn't want to take him again two days after the last visit, as it was, sadly, his time) and I lit incense, candles and was using my singing bowl when little Ra Kismet (normally so rambunctious) came and put his two paws sooooooooo gently on the seat of the chair and with even greater care, kissed Buddha twice on the nose. Ra's kisses are normally VERY BIG AND SLOPPY. I have never seen anything from one so young like it, he knew of course and said his 'goodbyes'. Still tear when I think about it.

So I will get him tested a.s.a.p. he may not be quite ready yet, but I know in time, he will be in time :).

Probably my golden oldie would be better at present, LOL he's BOMB PROOF and a perfect gentleman.


Honored Member
First thing this morning, went through the Delta page, watched the video and have downloaded everything.

I think before applying for assessment we need to work a bit more on controlled heeling, he's 'got it' well almost would probably pass provided another dog doesn't hove into view and of course they test on that:( - that DEFINITELY needs more work. And is I think the BIGGEST area he needs to work on. Plus the dog in the video was VERY quiet and calm, even at his best Ra Kismet has a bit more enthusiasm for life, in a good way though:D

They said petting/treats can be used, I hope this also means clicker/treats:)

Most of what they require I am sure Ra Kismet would pass, will work on the 'rough' petting, though shouldn't be a worry just never really thought about that before. Plus being held by a stranger, he's never experienced that, not sure how he would react. Will work on all points because, like any exam, the kid needs to be well prepared then the nerves don't really play a factory - :LOL:LOL that goes for me too - to be honest don't think Ra Kismet HAS any nerves;) He's still young, so no rush but hey I really would love him to become a therapy dog as they do so much good for people(y)

Sadly, Zeus is 'too old':(


Experienced Member
I've been wanting to get Winston on this kind of thing for a while. He has only one problem, he is reclutant to IMMEDIATELY accept another person in an open space like a park. But for example when I was at my parent's, I was with a group of people preparing their dogs for therapy. And the first time we met, we hanged around for a bit talking to the people I knew - he was watching other people but didn't come in contact with them- as soon as we sat down with the dogs in a circle, he started going through it, sniffing and asking for petting.
It's not like he's going to do anything if somebody came to him and petted him, it's that he's not very "I want cuddles now" in that case. He sniffs the hands of the other person and that stuff so you can't really pet him (because if he's sniffing you, you know, it's hard to pet anything but his nose, lol).
I'm worried about "the first time", after that there'd be no troubles.

I have a question on the noises. We (dog and I!) are very "jumpy bunnies". We get startled easily. Could you explain to me exercise with the falling cane? The only thing he has to do is be able to go to the person who dropped it, if the person calls him back?


Honored Member
I cannot comment for sure on how the assessors would react to Winston sniffing, I've only been reading through the requirements but sniffing is a dog's way of assessing whether the person is friendly, so I don't think that would be a problem. Tiger Lily did that, she was a VERY VERY nervous, timid pup when I first got her and her BEST efforts with strangers was a sniff. But that sniff did turn into 'PLEASE PAT ME".

My understanding of the dropped cane is that the dog DOESN'T react to the MOTION OR SOUND of a falling cane. it may not be the person who wants to stroke him who drops a cane. And yes, I also feel it means he's not going to feel frightened/threatened by the person who dropped the cane.

But I HAVE NOT as yet gone for assessment, still working on issues I know would rule Ra Kismet "not ready".

I am certain there are others on this forum who will give you much better informed advice.


Experienced Member
Hmm, if he doesn't have to react to the falling of the cane, that would be a problem. I am also startled by loud sounds, so I've never been able to properly desensitize a dog (they of course notice that I'm nervous or that I was startled).

Adrianna & Calvin

Experienced Member
Re: the dropped cane: it is supposed to startle the dog. For my dog, who is deaf, someone snuck up behind him and 'goosed' him -- the point is to startle the dog and see how s/he reacts. Calvin looked behind him to see who was there, that was it. A dog quickly turning around to see what fell is fine; immediately going over to have a sniff is great. Backing up and barking, not so good. Cowering and urinating, trying to run away, etc. not so good. In the uncontrolled environment of a nursing home or care facility, at some point someone will drop a tray, or bang their hand on a table, etc. and the evaluators want to know that the dog won't freak out. Being startle-able is part of being alive :) ; how you deal with it is the key.

I should say that a very low percentage of dogs make good therapy dogs. Dogs love being in familiar environments with familiar companions -- they love routine and they love knowing who's who. So not many dogs will enjoy going someplace 'weird' with novel smells, sights, and sounds, and perhaps being handled roughly (however unintentionally). The dog should love the work, not endure it because s/he is a gentle and tolerant dog.

A few days ago, I passed by a small group of young children (4-10 yrs old) and some of them wanted to pet Calvin. I know many dogs who would stand there and allow themselves be pet, but like a good therapy dog Calvin plopped down, leaned his head back, and relaxed into it. After about 30 seconds he was on the ground asking for belly rubs. Someone actually pulled her car over to ask if the dog was ok, because I was squatting next to him and we were surrounded by so many excited kids :)

(I should mention, that some dogs are great therapy dogs for kids, and others are adults only but still great therapy dogs. )

Anyway, I bet you can talk to whatever your local organization is (there's also TDI, TDI, Inc, and regional organizations) and they can put you in touch with an evaluator who can tell you exactly what they are looking for.



Experienced Member
We never have this kind of situation. :( Over here parents are like "Don't touch the dog!!" all the time. But every time I go for a walk in downtown I get at least one old lady who pets him and says "He's so white! And so soft!"

Anyways, on the topic of dogs, I guess then we have a normal reaction with my dog. Usually the most common reaction is backing up a second and sniffing the fallen object afterwards.

And, of course the dog should enjoy it. While helping people is great, I would kinda like to do it for my dog rather than for the people. I think it'd do good for all parties involved (except for my increasing lack of free time :p just kidding).

What kind of stuff do you do with senior people? I have a book on therapy with kids, but I'm not that interested on it.