A Day in the Life of Hard Working Therapy Dogs

Brown and White Therapy Dog Wearing a Yellow Vest

Dogs have a special way of making people smile and to feel better about themselves and their circumstances.  For these reasons therapy dogs have played a crucial role in many hospitals, senior-care facilities, children’s programs and universities.

The gentle presence of a loyal dog offering up unconditional love and affection to those hurting, stressed or lonely is perhaps one of the best forms of medicine with no unpleasant side effects (except for maybe too many wet nuzzles).

Although these canine companions enjoy their missions-of-joy, their task is still a job and one that requires training and commitment on both the animal and the handler or pet parent’s behalf.  Let’s take a peek into a day-in-the-life of hard working therapy dogs.

therapy dog wearing a red vest

Task One: Getting Ready

Before the dog is ready for therapy it must first be trained in obedience. This usually starts when the dog is young or has the skills necessary when it is older to be patient and calm around people and busy situations.

A therapy work day starts off for most canines by getting physically ready. Before the pet can go into a hospital or care-facility, it must be bathed to ensure it is free of parasites, dirt, grime or other “contagions.”  

This includes having a bath with its face washed, ears cleaned and nails trimmed (if necessary) to prevent accidental scrapes.  The dog will also wear a vest to identify it as a therapy dog, allowing it access to the lobby of the facilities and the patients’ rooms.  

golden retriever in the tub getting clean

Task Two: Travelling

Whether by car, bus, bicycle or motorcycle therapy dogs must be able to endure (sometimes) long rides to get to their visitation locations. Well trained and sensitive animals will know by the words spoken by their pet parent, or by the donning of the therapy vest, that it’s time to go to work.  

Although, these loyal canines have no idea of the importance their job holds for those in their “care”, they do know it’s a time for being in the presence of kind people who just want to greet them with warm smiles and a gentle pat on the head.

corgi in the car smiling

Task Three: Spreading Some Furry Love

Once in the center dogs immediately go to work. This can include visiting with sick patients in chronic care units, cancer wards, retirement facilities, or those folks with general illnesses or injuries.  Therapy dogs enjoy the attention lavished on them and welcome the chance to be loved by everyone in their path.

When the dog is with a patient it will lay its head on the lap to be stroked or even offer more fuzzy-support by being next to the bedridden person. This side-by-side therapy is particularly helpful to those who cannot sit up, children or all those who request it.

Therapy dogs are trained for both options, but will usually only climb onto the bed if invited to do so. Smaller dogs may be held by the patient or long-term resident for an even closer bonding session.  

therapy dog in a blue vest sitting in a lady's lap

Pit Stop: School Buddies

Some therapy dogs spend their time being a buddy to reluctant grade-school readers.  This program gives the child an opportunity to practice his or her reading skills without the pressure, judgement or embarrassment of being in front of their peers.  

The therapy dog’s role in this situation is to lay quietly by the child’s side while he or she is seated on the floor.  The child will then select a book to recite out loud to their doggy companion.  Schools in many areas are enlisting the help of canine-listeners and are noticing marked improvement in their student’s interest in reading.

University students are also enjoying the benefits of therapy dogs. These canines are trained to help young adults cope with the everyday stresses of college life by offering love and support in the form of snuggles, nuzzles, wet kisses or just being there to lap up some love.

gray therapy dog helping kids at school

Task Four: Doggy Time

After a long day of spreading the love therapy dogs deserve a treat for a job well done.  Once the dog leaves the hospital, school or nursing home and their therapy vest comes off, canines know it’s time to go home or to embark on a fun treat.

Pet parents use various methods of rewarding their dogs like a fun romp in the dog park, a delicious snack or a fun toy.  Making the canine’s “me time” special allows the dog to unwind after the day and shows them they did a good job…now all that’s left is a cool drink of water and a long nap.

dog on its back relaxing

Does Your Canine Have What it Takes to Be a Therapy Dog?

Pet therapy is a noble and worthy cause that may be of interest to those people (with pets) that love to offer support and care to the sick, disabled or hurting.  Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering pet therapy.


Just as not all humans are cut out to be all things, not all dogs are cut out to be in therapy. One of the most important qualities in a suitable therapy canine is its personality.  Therapy dogs must exhibit a loving and gentle nature first and foremost.  The most recommended breeds for pet therapy are;

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Greyhounds
  • Beagles
  • Pomeranians
  • Poodles
  • Pugs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Saint Bernard

Although these breeds are more likely candidates for doing well as therapy dogs, that doesn’t mean other breeds or even mixed-breeds aren’t well-suited for the task.  

Volunteers also play a crucial role in pet therapy and must want to spend time with people-in-need, without getting anything monetary in return.  However, a gentle smile, a kind word or even just having someone to share a conversation with all makes pet therapy a rewarding experience for the recipient and the volunteer.

volunteers with their therapy dogs

Training and Commitment

We wouldn’t jump into a job without training and the same applies for pet therapy.  Dogs in this role must be well-trained and responsive to its handler’s commands such as sit, stay, come and down. It cannot pull on it’s leash, jump on people or become overly affectionate.  It has to be calm in busy or distracting situations, without becoming panicked or aggressive.  Therapy dogs must also endure the clumsy handling of children, the elderly or those suffering from disabilities.

Commitment is also a huge part of dog therapy. Patients, especially those in long-term care facilities, create bonds with these furry ambassadors and look forward to their visits, so a commitment on the part of the pet parent is a necessary and a vital component.  Building these relationships (not only canine-to-patient but also volunteer-to-patient) is a rewarding experience that can last for days, weeks, months or even years.  

There’s no substitute for honest-to-goodness unconditional love and who is better suited for this task than man (and woman’s) best friend? Therapy dogs are hard working creatures who do this amazing job for a simple hug or a kind word, but ask a patient who has experienced pet therapy and they may just tell you, it’s life saving…

Dog Shedding and Sitting on a Red Rug

How to Control Dog Shedding

Does your dog shed? Learn how to control their shedding!

10 Adoption Stories Guaranteed to Put a Smile on Your Face

If you love dogs, chances are you love a good dog adoption story! These ten stories are ones that I experienced first hand while working at animal rescues and shelters over the last eight years. They may make you laugh, cry, smile or a little of each, but they are guaranteed to warm your heart!…

Long Haired Beauties, What’s the Best Long Haired Cat Breed?

Are you looking to add a long-haired cat to your family, but aren’t sure which breed is right for you? Look no further because I’ve got you covered, from the Brachycephalic Persian to the dainty Turkish Angora there is a long haired cat out there for every personality type. Persian: One of the oldest cat…

Pug Smiling at Dog Park

Here’s How to Find a “Good” Dog Park!

Learn the insider secrets of finding the best dog park possible!

Dogs Walking on Path

How to Spot the Signs of Discomfort and Stress in Dogs

Do you know when your dog is stressed out or in discomfort?

Two Turtles Sunbathing on a Rock

How to Choose the Turtle for You

Turtles come in all shapes and sizes, with different living environments and dietary needs that you will need to be prepared to accommodate.

Pitbull Laying Out on the Beach

How to Rent a Dog for a Day

Want a furry friend, but don’t know if you can make the commitment just yet ?

Dog From a Painting Chewing on a Page from a Book

BO-ZING! 8 Most Popular Dogs in Literary Fiction

Even though Spot was used in the early 1930s to teach kids the fundamentals of reading, he certainly isn’t the only canine to find his way into a good book.

Dog Drinking Water out of Fountain

How Much Water Should Your Dog Really Drink?

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets.

Neapolitan Mastiff Outside in the Yard Protective Dog Breed

The 10 Most Protective Dog Breeds

These 10 breeds are all known for their dedication to their owners and their willingness to protect them.

Dog Playing with Pink Toy on Bed

Is Your Dog Possessive Over their Toys?

It’s normal for young pups to be a bit possessive over their toys…

Pug with Wrinkles on Face by Seaside

How to Clean Your Dog’s Skin Folds

The wrinkly faces of the Pug, Bulldog, Shar Pei and other brachycephalic breeds are adorable, but they also require regular cleaning.

Cat Profile in Plane Looking out Window

How to Fly with Your Cat

You have to give yourself plenty of preparation before you and your cat are ready to go jet set off on a plane somewhere.

Pug with Flowers in His Face

10 Dangerous Things in Your Yard for Your Dog

Have you taken a good look at your yard to be sure that everything is safe for your furry friends?

Chow Chow Least Obedient Dog Cover

Watch Out! The 10 Least Obedient Dog Breeds

Every dog can be trained, but some are simply a little less motivated than others.

Two Greyhounds Laying in the Backyard

How Long Should You Leave Your Dog Alone?

There is no short answer to this question as many factors can affect it.

Black Cat in Litter Box Newspaper on Wall

Why Should You Clean the Litter Box so Frequently?

Keeping your cat’s litter box clean is extremely important to her psyche as well as her health.

Millennials Spoil their Pets Jack Russell Sleeping

How Millennials are Changing Pet Parenthood

Millennials are putting off big life events like getting married and having children.
Instead, they’re having fur babies.

What Size Dog Should You Choose Dog Reading Self Help Book

What Size Dog is Best for You?

One thing that you definitely need to consider is size.

Puppy in Training to be a Guide DogPuppy in Training to be a Guide Dog

How to Train Your Dog to Become a Guide Dog

Dogs have been helping humans for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that one common job for dogs is guiding the blind.

White Albino Labrador

How to Train a Deaf Dog—It’s Easy!

Luckily, training a deaf dog isn’t so different from a fully-abled dog.

White Great Dane Laying on the Couch

Why are White Coated Dogs Deaf?

Deafness affects white coated dogs, but not all white coated dogs are deaf.

Sheep Dog with Matted Fur in his Eyes

How to Get Mats out of Your Animals’ Fur

Mats in fur are an issue that many dogs face, especially shaggy ones.

Pitbull out in the Summer Sun

How to Prevent Your Dog From Overheating

It’s up to us. Our dogs don’t know when they’re overheating.

Three Greyhounds Sleeping in Dog Beds in Family Room

April is Adopt a Greyhound Month! 50 Amazing Facts about Greyhounds

The Greyhound, the professional sleeper.

Black Cat on Window Sill

7 Myths about the Black Cat and Why You Should Have One

Black cats are famous for “bad luck.”

Small Brussells Griffons Eating in Kitchen in a Line

What is Food Aggression and How Do You Stop It?

A useful response in the wild, but not so much in the home.

Yellow and Black Snake

How to Help Your Snake Shed his Skin

Shedding skin is a natural process for all reptiles.

German Shepherd Dog with Green Backpack on Back

The Top 10 Dog Traveling Gear Must Haves

Luckily, you don’t need to bring a ton of things.

Two Dogs Hike in Los Angeles

Love Traveling? Countries to NOT Travel With Your Dog To

Watch out for Belarus.

Dog Eating a Treat

Yum. Yum. Yum. Can Dogs Eat Sugar?

We love sweets, but can our dogs eat them, too?

Pitbull Looking up at the Camera

Going Out of Town? Best Pet Sitters in Atlanta

Going out of town and need someone to watch your dog?

Maine Coon Backlit by the Sunset

Feline Monsters: Norwegian Forest Cat vs. Siberian Cat vs. Maine Coon

Not only are these cats’ big, their personalities are larger than life, too.

Boston Terrier by Water

French Bulldog vs. the Boston Terrier: What’s the Difference?

To the untrained eye, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers could be the same breed

Labradoodle Hybrid Dog with Tongue Out

Why Do People Want Hybrid Dogs?

They’re cute and they’re…healthier?

Two Cats on the Floor Bonding

5 Reasons Why You Should Adopt an Older Cat

Adopting an older cat is a great way to get an amazing cat without all the work of kittenhood.

Black Cat Outside on the Lawn

10 years? 15? How Old Do Cats Live?

Cat’s have nine lives, but how long are those lives?

Grey and White Cat with Green Eyes

How to Prevent Cat Bladder Infections

Bladder infections are the number one reason cats visit the vet.

Dog on Hillside in San Francisco, California

The Top Dog-Friendly Cities in the U.S.

How can you go wrong with a pub-crawl with your dog?

German Shepherd with Pointed Ears

What is Schutzhund and How Do You Train Your Dog for it?

This sport has withstood the test of time.

Dog International in England Shakespeare House

Your Introduction to Traveling Abroad with Your Dog

Going to a new country with your dog can be a great experience.

Brown Horse with Black Mane Trotting in Dirt

How to Manage Chronically Infected Wounds in Horses

This can be a scary thing, because infections can eventually lead to the horse’s death if left untreated for too long.

Alusky Hybrid Frozen in the Snow

The Alusky—the Hybrid of Two Great Arctic Breeds

One portmanteau that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves—the Alusky.

Two Dogs with Tongues out with Separation Anxiety

How to Beat Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a well-known problem for many pet parents.

Alaskan Malamute Standing in the Mud

65 Fun Facts About the Alaskan Malamute

They’ve lived alongside humans for thousands of years.

Egyptian Mau on Cat Tree

Where Do Different Cat Breeds Come From?

There are over 70 specific recognized breeds…that’s a lot of cats.

Alaskan Malamute Outside in the Snow

Your Go-To Guide to Snow Dog Breeds

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Girl Waving at Computer

10 Ways to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Dog

Not sure how to help your pooch feel more appreciated?

Siberian Cat Profile Outdoors

How to Read Cat Body Language

There are many tell-tale signs to indicate Kitty’s mood.

White American Eskimo by the Lake

What are the Top 10 Dog Breeds that Shed the Most?

Did you know that a dog’s coat serves three distinct purposes?