Does my dog need to pass a test to be able to participate in animal assisted therapy?
That depends on where you might be interested in visiting with your dog.
Larger facilities, like hospitals, with concerns about liability and safety issues, as well as infection control, have greater needs for standards of visiting pet programs. They may establish protocols that include testing to acquire liability insurance through organizations like TDI (Therapy Dog International) or Delta Society’s Pet Partner Program (not limited to dogs). The testing is usually based on the Canine Good Citizenship Test which is a set of ten different elements designed to define what it means to be a well-behaved animal.
Just passing the test, however, is not necessarily the indicator that a dog is well suited for the challenges of therapy dog work, but it is certainly a good first step. That being said, some places like nursing homes or senior centers welcome visits from those with well behaved pets without benefit of testing. But, it’s always a good idea to make sure the dog has a minimum standard of behavior and socialization so the visit is neither too stressful nor puts either the dog or any people at risk for inappropriate behavior.
Therapy visits may not appear to be hard work, but it can be exhausting. If you plan to visit a nursing home with your dog on your own, keep the visits to 45 minutes or less and see how your dog does.