Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are canines that are trained to provide comfort and affection to people in retirement homes, nursing homes, hospices, schools, hospitals and disaster areas, and to people with autism. Therapy Dogs work in animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy, typically alongside their owner/handlers who consider them the canines to be their personal pets.


Therapy dogs are canines that are trained to provide comfort and affection to people in retirement homes, nursing homes, hospices, schools, hospitals and disaster areas, and to people with autism. Therapy Dogs work in animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy, typically alongside their owner/handlers who consider them the canines to be their personal pets. Schools across the country are reaching out to therapy dog programs for the many benefits they provide to students. Schools can be extremely stressful settings for students, creating a strain on resources that can help young people cope with emotions, disorders, or relationships. Therapy dogs provide an inexpensive way to assist students in focusing on their education. They provide a comforting presence that should be available to young people in need.

Research hаѕ demonstrated thаt therapy dogs properly managed in thе school setting саn nоt оnlу make a measurable difference in terms оf gaining vаriоuѕ skills ѕuсh аѕ reading enhancement, but аlѕо in contributing critically tо emotional аnd relational development. School counselors аrе finding thаt thе presence оf a therapy dog саn decrease anxiety аnd enable students tо work thrоugh issues ѕuсh аѕ anger management, bullying tendencies аnd оthеrѕ psycho/social problems. Thе introduction оf a non-threatening therapy dog саn serve аѕ a catalytic vehicle fоr forming adaptive аnd satisfactory social interactions. Guided activities аnd group discussions hеlр teach students hоw tо handle interpersonal conflicts аnd develop constructive responses.


  • Reading to a dog is less intimidating than reading a human. Therapy dogs provide an instant sense of calm because our dogs have “non-judgmental ears” – meaning,a therapy dog doesn’t care if a student mispronounces a word or struggles to read.
  • Hеrе iѕ a summary оf potential benefits (Data adapted frоm thе Australian Companion Animal Council):
    • Physical – Interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, рrоvidеѕ tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, givеѕ motivation tо move, walk аnd stimulates thе senses
    • Social – A visit with a dog рrоvidеѕ a positive mutual topic fоr discussion, promotes greater self-esteem аnd well-being, аnd focused interaction with оthеrѕ
    • Cognitive – Companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem solving аnd game playing
    • Emotional – An adorable four-legged visitor improves self-esteem, acceptance frоm others, аnd lifts mood оftеn provoking laughter
    • Environmental – A dog in a facility decreases thе feeling оf a sterile environment, lifts mood аnd thiѕ continues аftеr visit.



  • (Added 1/23/24, CounselorTalk):  Shared Wisdom about Therapy Dogs in Schools:
    • Be sure to check your school board policy. Some allow service and therapy dogs, some only allow service dogs. HERE is my board policy for an example. Seems like it may be an easy presentation to the school board to get it approved if you can show your dog‘s completed certification, updated vaccines, and proof of liability insurance. This is what my school board requires. There is so much data to show the benefits of therapy dogs, it should be an easy sell depending on your school board of course. I contacted Alliance of Therapy Dogs and my homeowner’s insurance today. I will share more information when I receive it.
    • The program Boone and his “owner” completed was through Medical Mutts.  I attended a couple of trainings and was very pleased. Our school purchased Boone through Colonial Village.  They are a wonderful family-owned business (and I believe they have expanded their training options for therapy and service certifications).  It might be too far away for you, but they are a terrific resource and so helpful!
    • Our dog went through a local program. One of the counselors in our district presented to the school board regarding having Therapy Dogs in schools and it was approved. We are a small district, but we have one dog in each of our 4 buildings. Top Notch Service Dogs:
    • I originally went through Pet Partners to get certified. I’m going to be switching to Alliance of Therapy Dogs. I have umbrella coverage through my homeowners insurance that covers us while we are at school since that is my employment rather than a volunteer position. Please feel free to call or email with more questions. I’m happy to help.  I think the homeowners insurance only went up by $50-100 per year.   Sami-Twin Lakes High School-574-583-7108 X 2327
  • Q: I am most curious to know how school nurses handle/accept therapy dogs. Ours is very nervous about allergies.
    • A: We have them and no problems – North Putnam
    • A: We have a therapy dog at Taylor Middle School in Kokomo. He is a labradoodle so he is allergy friendly. A few years ago I had a parent who was convinced his daughter would have a reaction to him so she wasn’t allowed to pet him per her father.  We had the school board approve him to be in our building.
    • Danville MS has a therapy dog in their library – several years now – Elizabeth Seegers Dewey can be followed on Instagram @ Sir_Dewey   From Counselor Talk (May 2019)
  • I did my master’s thesis on animal-assisted psychotherapy some years ago, and we are currently working on getting a therapy dog here at school. Please know that therapy dogs do not have the rights that service dogs have, and emotional support dogs don’t have the rights that therapy dogs have. It doesn’t take much at all for a dog to be named an emotional support dog. It takes much more training to become a legit therapy dog. In fact, through ICAN, it takes 18-24 months to become a therapy dog or facility therapy dog. That is a legit organization–others are sometimes questionable. (Counselor Talk, December 2018)
  • We have a teacher who brings her dog to school daily who has been trained through he Paws and Think program. Kids love him being here; he is in the care/supervision of an adult all day.
  • I am a therapy dog handler and I was given clearance to bring my therapy dog to school 2 half days a month.  I belong to Jack’s Dogs which is a volunteer program and we bring therapy dogs to the library, nursing homes, schools, etc.  We are affiliated with Pet Partners the oldest national organization for therapy animals.
  • It works ok if all of the students are told how to treat a therapy dog and…..
    • the dog is actually a certified therapy dog
    • you have paperwork on immunizations
    • the dog has been treated for fleas and ticks (our biggest problem was actually fleas)
  • Caitlyn Herr ( My school has a therapy dog. I am his handler so he lives with me and I bring him every day. The students and adults love him! He helps when students are upset. He is trained to get their attention. If a student won’t open up he is a good way to break the ice.  Happy to answer any questions!
  • Laura Tucker ( We have a CCI dog one of our teachers brings. He has his own Facebook page if you’d like to see what he does here.  He’s here everyday.
  • Maynard Nauta is the FB page. for more information on who she got him through.
  • Gina Woodward ( We have a teacher who brings her dog daily – Koda was trained through Paws and Think…kids love it.
  • Paige Mundy ( We recently had a dog come in just for the week of finals, and will have her back on occasion for similar stress relief activities. She is owned by a local family. She was trained and became a Certified Safe Canine Citizen, which my superintendent required for her to be present in schools. The kids (and staff) loved it! Her owner brought her in the morning and I returned her once school was out.
  • Christine Rosenbaum ( Attached is information that I found when researching therapy dogs in the school setting: Therapy Dog Resources
  • Students who bring therapy dogs to school and insurance: We had one this year and we consulted our special ed department and legally, as long as the owner produced the proper training paperwork as a CERTIFIED therapy dog, the dog was allowed in the building. If other students were allergic then we would make provisions for those students, but we did not have anyone allergic, so we didn’t have any issues. Sharren Popenfoose
  • Jami Carlson (  If anyone is considering a Therapy Dog in your school, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. I’m the handler for a 5 month old golden retriever puppy that is going to be trained to be a certified therapy dog and I highly recommend it. Our students and staff have really embraced the idea and one of our custodians has even said the dog has made her so happy that she has quit smoking. Here’s a link if you want to check it out but also feel free to email me with any questions:
  • Dan McMurtry ( I also have a therapy dog that comes to school with me. If you have any questions please let me know.
  • Meghan Olds ( I just received approval at the end of last school year for a therapy dog. I rescued a goldendoodle and she and I spent 2 months of intense training to become certified. We have also continued on to become certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs for after school hours and also to be able to go to nursing homes and visit autistic children. We are doing additional training to receive the Canine Good Citizen certification and are in the process to get certified through Love on a Leash.  I don’t mind to help out or answer any questions anyone may have.


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