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What dogs can be therapy dogs?
  • Your dog must consistently exhibit positive social interaction with other dogs and strangers. 
  • Your dog must know basic obedience, behave consistently and enjoy meeting new people.  
  • Your dog must exhibit good manners in public.You must behave as a responsible pet owner at all times.

Additional considerations volunteering as a therapy team:

  • While volunteering, you and your dog should be comfortable being exposed to unexpected movements or loud noises,  unfamiliar smells, and medical equipment. 
  • Volunteering involves using your conversation skills, time commitment for grooming and travel and being comfortable interacting with strangers. 
  • Your dog will help determine which programs will volunteer at. If your dog isn't comfortable your visit  will not be successful.



Is there a difference between service dogs and therapy dogs?
  • THERAPY DOGS are trained to provide social or therapeutic interaction with various populations in need of emotional, physical, or psychological support.  Therapy dogs are NOT included under the American Disabilities Act.  Petting and contact is what therapy dogs are all about.   You will frequently see "Ask to pet me I am friendly" on vests identifying them as therapy dogs.
  • SERVICE DOGS are trained to perform specific behaviors in order to assist an individual owner with daily living activities.  These dogs have access to public places and transportation under the American Disabilities Act. Petting service dogs is discouraged while they are assisting their owners.  "PAWS WITH A CAUSE" are service dogs.
  • EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOGS provide affection and companionship for individuals with various mental or emotional conditions. Emotional Support Dogs are NOT included under the American Disabilities Act.
What are the requirements for my dog to be involved in therapy?
  • Your dog must have lived with you for at least 6 months.
  • Your dog must be current with rabies vaccination and immunizations.  Titers are also accepted.  Proof of negative fecal test within the past year is also required.
  • Your dog must be able to perform basic obedience commands. 
  • You and your dog must attend and pass "Intro to Pet Therapy" offered by West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. A course designed to train you and your dog to activities and equipment involved in therapy work.
  • Your dog will need to be bathed and well-groomed for therapy work
  • Active service dogs may not train or work as a therapy dog 
  • Dogs trained for bite work are not eligible.
  • Wolf hybrids are not eligible.
  • Dogs on a raw diet are not accepted due to the increased risk of zoonitic infection.
Are there age requirements for the handler?
  •  Adult handlers of any age and their qualified dogs are eligible. A parent or guardian must accompany handlers under 16 years of age while participating in visits or activities.  (Junior membership is open to handlers beginning at age 10.)
How do I get involved in volunteering with my dog?
  • Check out all the information posted on and see if being a WMTD therapy would be a good fit for you and your dog. Be sure you have the time for a 2 year commitment.
  • Sign up for a prescreen evaluation. Contact with questions.
  • West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc., provides prescreens, training, testing, and competency evaluations for WMTD volunteers. Liability coverage is provided for active volunteer teams participating in approved WMTD visits.


Where can I volunteer with my dog?
  • West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. has been serving Michigan communities since 2001, at schools, nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, residential facilities. WMTD participates in College Stress Relief events, burn camp, grief camp,  airport stress relief visits and a multitude of additional events.
  • Requirements to participate vary from facility to facility and may require additional orientations, background checks, health certificates, or photo IDs for you and your dog.
  • Volunteering with WMTD requires a 2 year commitment to visiting, includes optional seminars and workshops, newsletters and access to our members only website. 
How do I get started?
  • West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. offers pet therapy orientation classes at scheduled times throughout the year.  Click on the tab "How to Get Started" for more information.
Is there a difference between certification and registration?
  • CERTIFICATION (in regard to therapy animals)  implies an organization has participated in the training or testing of a dog/handler to a certain level of behavior.
  • REGISTRATION (in regard to therapy animals) denotes the dog/handler team has been evaluated and meets specific requirements of the animal therapy organization in order to maintain eligibility for any benefits available through membership.