How To Adopt a Therapy Dog: The Full Process

Looking to bring home a therapy dog? There are three main routes. 

If you want to adopt an ex or failed therapy dog, the process will be a lot easier — you will gain a loyal and calm family companion. If you are looking to bring home a pup to become a therapy dog, and you are willing to put in the training, you first need to check they are suitable and safe for the job. The hardest method is to adopt a fully trained therapy pup — finding one can be a lot more difficult than you think.

In this article, we will take you through each route to help you make up your mind.

What is a Therapy Dog?

Before we dive in, let’s look at what a therapy dog actually does

Unlike an emotional support animal or a service dog, therapy animals don’t have to perform a specific task or provide emotional support for mental illness. Instead, they go to people in hospitals, nursing homes, and even schools to provide a bit of joy and comfort. 

There are some further requirements for therapy pooches. While they don’t require specific task training, they do have to know commands and respond to them quickly. Not every dog can be a therapy pooch. They need to be well-behaved and it helps to get them registered (but this is by no means a requirement).

The following articles details everything you need to know about therapy. 

Options for Adopting a Therapy Dog

Now you know what the job is, let’s go over the three routes you can take when undergoing therapy dog adoption.

1. Adopt an Ex or Failed Therapy Dog

Simple and easy. If you are looking to bring a pup into your life, an ex or failed therapy dog may already have some training under their belt but, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut. 

It might be the case that an individual wanted a working dog, and once the pup failed its classes, the person wanted to give the dog to a good home. Perhaps an older pooch needs a place to live out its golden years after lots of good work.  

If the current owners want the canine to go to a new home, they’ll put out an adoption ad — keep an eye out at shelters or for people selling or giving away their ex-therapy pup. You’ll be able to give a good home to a needy pooch that can perform the purpose you need. 

2. Adopt a Dog and Train Them 

This is the most straightforward way to get an actual, working therapy dog. Find a dog up for adoption, train them, get them certified, and then get on the job. It is good to pick a puppy, so they are more receptive to training. 

When picking your puppy, keep an eye on a few things:

  • Vocalizing — If the animal is super vocal, barks a lot, or is generally loud, they won’t make a good therapy pooch. Some vocalizing is ok, but in general, therapy pups need to be calm and quiet.
  • Biting — Nippy dogs do not make good therapy dogs. If you find the puppy constantly biting at you, even affectionately, then they are probably better off as the family pet. They will need great bite inhibition.
  • Temperament — Look for relaxed, affectionate dogs. If they are very jumpy and wriggly around new people, it is probably the perfect pet but not great for therapy. You can usually calm behaviors with training, but know it won’t always work.

3. Fully Trained  

There is a chance if you contact the right people, you may adopt a fully trained animal. However, it is far more efficient to train your own critter and get them certified yourself. 

Adopting a fully trained dog would involve lots of moving parts and conversations with trainers. If someone has put in the time and effort to train their animal, it’s unlikely they would put it up for adoption. 

It isn’t impossible to adopt a trained pup, but it is definitely the long way to go about getting an animal for therapeutic purposes. 

In Conclusion 

If you want a fully trained animal for public or personal needs, you are far better off getting a young pooch with a good temperament. That way, you can train them to perform the right tasks, calm them down if they are a little too enthusiastic, and quell any bad behavior before it becomes a problem. 

If you need any advice on canine adoption, the best breeds for the task, or help with knowing whether you need an emotional support animal rather than a therapy dog, ESA Registration of America has plenty of resources and knowledge for you. We are constantly offering new products including therapy dog harnesses and hope to help you any way we can. Contact us today.