Any breed or age dog has the potential to be a therapy dog. Your dog must know basic obedience, exhibit good manners in public, and consistently demonstrate positive interactions with other dogs and people.
You can review a full list of our guidelines for membership here.
Our teams volunteer at many places such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, and residential facilities throughout West Michigan. Requirements to participate in a therapy dog program vary from facility to facility. Some may require additional orientations, background checks, health certificates, and photo IDs for you and/or your dog. For a list of places we visit, click here.
Prospective members must go through a series of screenings, training classes, testing, shadow visits, and evaluations. For more details about getting started, click here.
Therapy Dogs are trained to provide social or therapeutic interaction with various populations in need of emotional, physical, or psychological support. Service Dogs are trained to perform specific behaviors to assist an individual owner with activities of daily living. Emotional Support Dogs provide affection and companionship for individuals with various mental or emotional conditions. To learn more, click here.
Handlers over 17 years of age may volunteer with West Michigan Therapy Dogs. Junior handlers are between the ages of 10 and 17 years of age and must be accompanied by a trained parent or trained responsible adult at all times during visits. Senior adult volunteers are also encouraged to participate.
Certification means that you and your dog have passed the prescreening test, gone through our training course, passed the certification test, and are eligible to volunteer as a WMTD team. Registration means that you and your dog are registered for our training classes or that you are registered to volunteer at one of our programs.
Our classes are held on Thursday afternoons and evenings for 2 hours weekly, for a total of 8 weeks. In order to graduate, teams must attend a total of seven classes and must be present at weeks three and seven.
WMTD members are not allowed to use their therapy dogs while at their place of work.
Our membership renewal process requires that each member be tested every 2 years with their dog, and if they pass, the team is recertified so long as membership dues are paid.
For a list of our costs for membership, please click here.
If you are away for an extended period of time, we ask that you start back up slowly so that the dog can get used to working again. We ask that you visit 1 hour per month, but we ask that you average 12 hours per year if you are gone.
The only age restriction we have is that your dog is at least 1 year old. We also ask that you live with your dog for at least 6 months before your prescreen evaluation. Our main requirements are based on the temperament of the dog, not age; we accept all breeds, mixed breeds, and rescues.
We volunteer at many different facilities within 5 counties surrounding the Greater Grand Rapids area.
If you are interested in our dogs visiting your facility, please contact our Director of Programs at WMTDPrograms@gmail.com.