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How to Become a Pet Therapy Team With Your Dog and Make a Difference Today

Do you think your dog will make a great candidate for a Therapy Dog? Do you have a little extra time to volunteer in your community with your dog?

How to Become a Pet Therapy Team With Your Dog and Make a Difference Today

What is a Therapy Dog?

The term "Therapy Dog" refers to a volunteer dog and handler team that have met the evaluation requirements to officially visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools, disaster areas and other areas where comfort and support can be provided. Conversely, a service dog is a dog trained specifically to provide assistance to individual with either a physical or mental disability, and an emotional support dog is one that provides daily emotional support to its owner. As a pet owner, volunteering with your dog is a very rewarding experience. There are over 55,000 volunteer dogs and handler teams registered as Pet Therapy teams but the need continues to grow.

Things Pet Therapy Teams Do

Pet Therapy Teams participate in a variety of volunteer activities, often associated with a local volunteer group. Some of these activities include:
  • Regular visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Hospital visits to pediatric wards, infusion centers and cancer centers
  • School visits for education programs
  • Reading programs at schools and libraries such as Paws To Read and R.E.A.D
  • Assistance at Disaster Relief/Crisis Relief centers
  • Campus visits to universities to help students adjust to living away from home
  • Family Court support for children

The Benefits of Pet Therapy

The health benefits of interacting with dogs are well known and have been scientifically supported, such as lowering blood pressure, releasing endorphins that have a calming effect and the automatic relaxation response that occurs when petting a dog. Additionally, interacting with Therapy Dogs has been shown to improve mental health by:
  • lifting spirits and lessening depression
  • decreasing feelings of isolation and alienation
  • encouraging communication
  • increasing socialization and sense of community
  • reducing loneliness
The University of California Davis conducted a groundbreaking study in 2010 on the benefits of using a Therapy Dog to help children become better readers. This study was based on anecdotal evidence from teachers and parents that showed reading to the Therapy Dogs improved their child's reading ability. The study showed that struggling readers were able to significantly improve their fluency levels from reading aloud to the dogs. They reported that reading was fun and were willing to do the necessary fluency practice needed to improve reading in a non-judgmental environment. This environment existed when they were able to read aloud to the Therapy Dogs. Many Pet Therapy teams make regular visits to assisted living and nursing home patients. Often for these seniors, regular visitors from Pet Therapy teams are the only visitors that they have, as family is often living far away or in a different state. Patients with dementia are often able to make a connection to the dog that they aren't able to make to another person. For you as a volunteer, Pet Therapy work provides an immediate connection to other like-minded dog owners and an extremely rewarding volunteer experience. Many volunteers are longtime volunteers with hundreds of hours earned over the years.

How to Become a Registered Pet Therapy Team

There are three primary registration organizations for Pet Therapy Teams in the United States. They are The Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Therapy Dogs International and Pet Partners. Steps to Becoming a Therapy Dog:
  • Find a registering organization near you
  • Brush up on your training or take a class
  • Get your dog evaluated by a registered evaluator
  • Find a volunteer group, get connected and start volunteering!
Your dog doesn't have to be perfect or undergo the rigorous training that a service dog would. The DO have to be:
  • Friendly
  • Well mannered
  • Able to work and interact where other dogs are present
And the can NOT:
  • Be Shy
  • Jump up on people
  • Pull or lunge on leash
  • React to other dogs, wheelchairs etc.
All three organizations have an evaluation, testing and registration process that is fairly similar. It is loosely based on the AKC Canine Good Citizen criteria with additional testing criteria added in. Once you connect with one of the registering bodies you will most likely be able to find a training class in your area that will help you prepare for your test. Most training classes are 6-8 weeks long. Once your are registered you will find that there is usually a group of volunteers that is organized to set up volunteer visits to the schools, nursing homes, hospitals etc. These groups often offer ongoing training for you and your dog to keep your skills sharp. Typically they will offer a way to track your volunteer hours and community service. As a Pet Therapy volunteer team myself, I can tell you it is a tremendous way to give back to your community. It provides you with an extremely meaningful volunteer activity and connection to an amazing group of like-minded humans and dogs. Are you and your dog ready to make a difference in your community today? Pet Therapy and Dog Seat Covers: Cargo, Dog Bed Liner, Bed Cover: 30% Off Premium Seat Covers

Kathryn DurnoKathryn Durno

Kathryn Durno's passion is canine sports, nutrition and fitness. She is a freelance writer, the owner of Dog Mamma's Organic Dog Treat Company and is owned by three Brittanys - Biddy, Tristan and Nate. Visit her on the web at


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Cordura seat cover

Great product. Have them on all my seats to protect them from water sand and nails of from all the dogs that travel with me in my camper van to the beach, rivers and woods.



We liked the first cover so much that a few days later we purchased a second one. The cover installs very, very easily, fits and covers the rear seat and the back of the front seats of our Subaru Tribeca perfectly, has flaps that cover the door-side edges of the rear seat, and stays perfectly in place. Spilled or tracked water beads up on the material and can be easily wiped off. At first our dog did tend to slide just a little on the new cover, but he soon learned to stand, sit, and lay just as well as he did before on the uncovered seat. The hammock portion seems like it might provide some little bit of protection in a sudden stop (our guy will chew apart any "doggie seat belt" type of restraint in very short order - so that option is out of the question for us). As to keeping him out of the car front-area - well, our long-legged Standard Poodle has no problem in still looking closely out the front windshield by putting his front feet on the center console - straddling the hammock - with no problem whatsoever. But we did discover that having the hammock in place does allow us to safely keep his water bottle and dish, his leash, and an old towel on the floor under the hammock - where he can no longer get at them (especially the leash and towel) to chew on them. All in all, an excellent seat cover.


My furbabies don't like leather seats!!!! But they love this seat cover!!!

Very hard to find a split bench seat cover at a reasonable price, this one fit the bill. Easy to install, very durable and looks to be easy to clean. Wanted something that would protect the leather seats and was pet friendly (hate it when the material of regular seat covers snags toenails and collars). I don't think I will have to buy another for many years!!!

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My Doodle approves!

Received on time, fits great and easy to install. Color is a great match. So far, so good. Durability? Time will tell. It appears to be well constructed.

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Fits my 2018 VW Tiguan perfectly

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great cover

This is actually a replacement for my original 4 knines cover which was 4 years old. I used it daily (bringing my pup to work with me) and washed it weekly, so the backing finally started to flake apart and come off. This newer version is easier to put over the headrests, great improvement in the strap and closures. Also the best improvement is the side flaps, the old cover didn't have these. These flaps help to catch the dirt from dogs feet when they are jumping up into the car, instead of it going on the side of the seat.

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This is my 2nd seat cover from 4knines and love them both. The product and service were both fantastic.


Repeat customer VERY satisfied.

We have made several purchases from 4Knines and are VERY satisfied with products (cargo liner, back seat cover, bucket front seat cover...). I volunteer at a shelter and take dogs offsite daily. Always a Pleasure doing business with 4Knines. Highly recommend.

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