Become a Therapy Dog Team

Therapy dogs are first and foremost pets and are trained to provide comfort to all types of people through physical and emotional affection.

What is a Paws & Think Therapy Team? 

Paws & Think therapy teams consist of a Paws & Think volunteer, called a “handler,” and his or her Paws & Think registered therapy dog. Our handlers are passionate about sharing their dog’s love with others and are committed to ensuring that those interactions are positive for both their dog and the recipients. Our therapy dogs love spending time with people and are not nervous or scared around strangers or crowds. Paws & Think registered therapy dogs are not to be confused with other types of support dogs such as service dogs, facility dogs, or Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). Learn more about types of support dogs.

Paws & Think Registered Therapy Dog Requirements

  1. Your dog must be at least 1 year old.
  2. Your dog must live with you for at least 6 months before taking our class or evaluation.
  3. Your dog must go through a basic obedience class with you, preferably a group training using positive training techniques. Paws & Think does not allow dogs that have been instructed in protection, Schutzhund, or attack dog training.
  4. Your dog must be outgoing, happy, approachable, and eager to greet people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.
  5. Your dog must be friendly with other dogs and animals and have shown no signs of aggression toward other dogs or toward any types of people.
  6. Your dog must be up to date on all of Paws & Think’s required vaccinations, and you will need to provide a copy of all vaccination records. (Vaccinations include Rabies, Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus, Bordetella, and Leptospirosis. Fecal exam and heartworm test also required. Must have a letter from your Veterinarian for any exemptions.)
  7. Your dog should not be fed a raw diet.
  8. You and your dog must pass the Paws & Think therapy skills evaluation every two years. Paws & Think provides dogs with disabilities the opportunity to take the evaluation and makes reasonable accommodations upon request.

Our goal is for all registered therapy teams to volunteer with Paws & Think a minimum of 2 hours per month. Paws & Think partners with a variety of venues in Marion and the surrounding counties including healthcare facilities, schools, libraries, and more. Click here to see our list of current venue partners.

How to Become a Therapy Dog Team

Step 1: Determine your dog’s readiness
Fill out the inquiry form. After you submit your inquiry, you will receive an email with a link to our Online Assessment for your dog. The assessment takes about ten minutes to complete and helps us determine your dog’s readiness to enroll in Paws & Think’s therapy dog training. After you complete the assessment, a Paws & Think Coordinator will email you to schedule a phone call to discuss the next steps for you and your dog, which may be to enroll in our therapy dog training or take additional outside training first.

Step 2: Sign up to be a Paws & Think volunteer
After you have completed the assessment for your dog and discussed next steps with a Paws & Think Coordinator, complete our online volunteer application and background check.

Step 3: Enroll in Paws & Think’s therapy dog training
After you have completed the assessment from step 1 and a Paws & Think Coordinator has determined that you are ready to enroll in our therapy dog training, our Training Coordinator will help you get scheduled. We typically have a wait list for our therapy dog training, so it is important that you respond promptly to emails from our Training Coordinator about scheduling classes for you and your dog.

Step 4: Take Paws & Think’s therapy dog evaluation
After you and your dog have completed our therapy dog training, a Paws & Think Coordinator will work with you to schedule your evaluation with your dog. After you and your dog pass the evaluation, you will officially be a registered therapy team with Paws & Think.

Step 5: Sign up for volunteer opportunities
Our goal is for all Paws & Think therapy dog teams to volunteer at a Paws & Think venue an average of once a month. You can see our current list of Therapy Dog Program Venues here. Reach out to the Program Coordinator for more information about programs you are interested in, and start signing yourself up for opportunities in our online volunteer scheduling system. Note that some programs and venues may require additional training or that you shadow with an experienced Paws & Think team before you visit on your own.

Dog Therapy Team