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Before getting started, you should know what we are looking for in a Therapy Dog. A Therapy Dog is born, not made. Yes, one can teach a dog mannerly behavior, but one cannot change a dog's inherent temperament. When a dog is put under stress, poor or marginal temperament will surface.


So, what are we looking for? A Therapy Dog must have an outstanding temperament. This means that the dog should be outgoing and friendly to all people; men, women, and children. The dog should be tolerant of other dogs (of both genders) and non-aggressive toward other pets. Before you consider having your dog evaluated, ask yourself if your dog has these qualities. The dogs used for therapy work vary in size and type. They may not all be “pure-bred,” but they all have a love of people.


Therapy dog owners have one thing in common; they have discovered the unselfish desire to help others. The use of canines to help mankind is known throughout the world. They have been used for guarding flocks, tracking, hunting, search and rescue, leading the blind, and in assisting the deaf and physically challenged. The bond between dog and man dates back to early history, but it wasn’t until recently that a correlation was acknowledged between this bond and the emotional health of humans. Studies have shown that a person holding or petting an animal will cause a lowering of blood pressure, the release of strain and tension, and can draw out a person from loneliness and depression.

The goal for dogs in this program is to bring joy and comfort to those in need and to make more therapy dogs available by striving to improve and expand the relationship between individuals in need of emotional service dogs.  

Program Requirements

Our therapy dogs are rigorously trained for 6 months to 1 year and tested to display temperament that shows confidence, good manners, and sociability with other dogs and people.


Places therapy dogs may visit include:


  • Assisted Living/ Nursing Homes

  • Children Reading to Dogs Program

  • Detention Centres

  • Hospitals/ Hospice

  • Community Centres/ Day Program


Criteria for Prospective Therapy Dogs


  • Must be at least 1 year old at the time of certification.

  • Have lived in the owner’s home for at least 6 months and reliably house trained.

  • Must have updated vaccines (rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, bordetella) fecal test, flea/parasite/heartworm prevention, and annual vet check-ups.

  • Have no history of aggression or biting.

  • Must demonstrate good basic obedience skills, i.e. walking on a loose leash, and responding reliably to common commands such as Sit, Down, Stay, Come, Leave It.

  • Welcome, not just tolerate, interactions with strangers.


Animals with an Illness


Animal welfare and infection control are key principles in the Vancouver ecoVillage Dog Therapy Program. Forcing dogs to make therapeutic visits when they are not healthy increases stress and can lead to a worsened condition. Additionally, you may visit clients with compromised immune systems who would be at risk for transmission of zoonotic diseases. If your dog is taking antibiotics, antifungals or immunosuppressants they must refrain from testing or visiting until they have finished treatment.


Animals with a Disability


Vancouver ecoVillage does register animals with disabilities as long as visiting does not aggravate the medical condition. If your animal’s disability requires changes to our evaluation, please contact us and we’d be happy to discuss the specifics of your particular situation.

Criteria for Prospective Handlers


  • Must be empathetic, kind, personable and relaxed. (Must not be nervous, irritable, depressed or aloof.)

  • Must display impeccable hygiene and be well-dressed covering shoulders and knees. Wear low-heeled shoes covering toes/heels. Hands, fingernails, and hair must be clean.

  • A handler under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or who smells of alcohol, will not be evaluated and may not re-test for certification.

  • Multiple handlers may test for certification with written permission from the owner.

  • Handlers with Service Dogs or Service-Dogs-in-Training must bring written permission from their certifying agency giving approval for participation in a therapy dog program.

  • Handlers younger than 16 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Successful handlers will be able to

  • Read their animal’s particular body language and recognize when their animal is stressed, anxious, concerned, overstimulated or fatigued.

  • Demonstrate positive interactions with their animal by praising, cueing, encouraging and reassuring the animal as needed.

  • Be able to cue or redirect their animal without raising their voice, forcefully jerking on the leash or offering the animal food or toys.

  • Make casual conversation with those they meet on visits while still being attentive to their animal.

  • Guide the interactions of others with the animal in a professional and polite manner.

  • Advocate for the safety and well-being of their animal at all times.

Little blond girl, 4 years old, sitting in the hospital bed smilling with a dog

Volunteers Who Are Minors


Vancouver ecoVillage welcomes handlers as young as 10 years old. If you are under the age of 18, you must be accompanied on all visits by a parent/guardian who must be in control of the dog's leash at all times. 


Volunteers with a Disability


Vancouver ecoVillage works with handlers with disabilities. If your disability requires changes to the evaluation, please contact us and we’d be happy to discuss the specifics of your particular situation.


Do You Inspire Confidence as a Team?


Therapy dogs must inspire confidence in those they meet and their behavior must be reliable, predictable and controllable. When you can predict your dog’s reactions, you can take action to ensure a reliable response and maintain control of your dog in any situation. When clients and facility staff perceive that you’re in control of your dog, they’ll have confidence in you both when you come for visits.

Our Fostering Program is called Foster Pets Rock! because our volunteers provide foster care for animals in distress when patients at hospitals and hospices have no way of caring for their animals at home.


Frequently these animals are taken to shelters where an uncertain fate awaits them and the patients never see their beloved pets again.


Our volunteers foster these animals at the patient's home or at their own home and take them to see their owners in the hospital so they are never deprived of the wonderful love of their pets. This often provides much comfort and helps relieve the anxiety many patients feel and indeed helps in their recovery process.


Please help us by volunteering or donating to our program.

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