Training / Volunteering
The Good Dog Difference
Good Dog is unique from other therapy dog organizations in offering:
Hands-On Training. Four weekly 90-minute, in-person classes let our trainers observe you and your dog over time, assessing skill retention, offering correctives.
Authentic Certification. We are the only organization in the NY Metro offering authentic Therapy Dog Team Certification and annual reevaluation.
Site Visits To Ensure Safety. Good Dog volunteers visit hospitals, schools and other facilities that are pre-inspected and have signed a Partnership Agreement ensuring a safe dog-human environment.
- Children on the autism spectrum
- Veterans with PTSD
- Anxious, lonely college students
- Isolated elderly people
- School children needing reading help
- Patients recovering from surgery
- Stressed employees
- And more
How To Be a Good Dog Volunteer
Your application will be reviewed by a Good Dog trainer. If accepted, you and your dog will be invited for an in-person evaluation.
During the evaluation, the trainer will observe your dog’s obedience skills, temperament, sociability with humans and other dogs, as well as its relationship with you.
Description: Four once-a-week 90-minute classes taken in-person with others seeking certification. The fee is $280. The course includes a review of obedience skills. But the focus is training you and your dog to be a therapy dog team – so you can donate time in sensitive healthcare and educational environments like hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
For admission to this course, dogs must have mastered basic obedience skills such as Sit, Stay, Down, and Leave It. Dogs must also walk politely on a loose leash on a flat collar or harness, and they must not jump when greeting people. Handlers must demonstrate control over their dog at all times.
After successfully completing all four Therapy Skills classes, you will be asked to:
Sign a Good Dog Volunteer Agreement outlining conditions of volunteer work that enable you to be covered by our liability insurance during official Good Dog visits.
Go on a Shadow Visit scheduled for you and your dog, accompanied by a Good Dog trainer or staff member who is there to support you and assess your skills. The goal is to ensure you and your dog are comfortable and ready to operate on your own in a therapy environment. Note: Shadow Visits are scheduled only at select Partner Facilities, enabled by a special agreement with Good Dog.
Annual re-certification is a best-practice protocol, required by The Good Dog Foundation. It ensures compliance with both state law and Good Dog policies and extends our liability insurance to cover you for another year while on therapy dog visits. To be re-certified:
Your dog will be re-evaluated on obedience skills and temperament by a Good Dog trainer at a training location.
These behaviors disqualify your dog from therapy work:
Aggression towards humans or dogs
Uncontrollable hyperactivity (excessive barking, jumping, licking, pawing, etc.)
Medical concerns (advanced age, fatigue, stiffness, excessive panting, signs of discomfort, etc.)
Human handlers must not display any of the following:
PLEASE NOTE: Our volunteers work with vulnerable populations and are required to be kind and tactful. This courtesy should be demonstrated in every interaction with Good Dog staff and trainers as well. Teams that cannot meet both the canine and human requirements will not be certified by The Good Dog Foundation. We reserve the right to withhold or withdraw certification if a team displays abusive or disrespectful behavior of any kind.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can more than one person be certified with a dog?
Yes. A second person (“Additional Handler”), who is a legal owner or lives with the dog, can take the same therapy classes along with you. The fee is $100. Once again, attendance at all four classes is mandatory for all human handlers…no one is allowed to substitute for you if you are unable to attend a class.
Is there an age limit for dogs?
All dogs must be at least one year old to be trained by Good Dog. Please wait until your dog is one year before submitting an application form.
I have two dogs. Can I train them both?
Good Dog therapy teams consist of one dog and one handler. All training and visits must be done in this manner. However, we welcome handlers to train more than one of their dogs if they so desire. This can be done by one handler attending separate 4-class courses for each dog. Or, if there is another legal owner who lives with the second dog, you can take classes together as two separate volunteer teams, each at the full fee.
Where do you hold training classes?
Good Dog training classes are held in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens as well as in Westchester and Columbia counties. You will be referred to the trainer closest to you once you submit the application.
Are any of the fees tax-deductible?
Good Dog training class fees, which are a fee for service, are not considered tax-deductible donations by the IRS. Other expenses (veterinary, travel, etc.) that are directly attributable to your Good Dog volunteer work may be deductible for income tax purposes. However, we recommend that you keep detailed records of such expenses and discuss then with your tax professional.
Once my dog and I are certified, can we do therapy visits at my workplace?
Good Dog therapy visits are covered by insurance that restricts you and your dog to work in a volunteer capacity during scheduled one-hour-per-day sessions at designated Partner Facilities only. If your goal is to work with your dog in a professional practice capacity, you must complete a Good Dog application for Professional Training.
If I move, does my Good Dog certification work in other states?
The Good Dog Foundation operates in the greater New York Metropolitan Area. If you move outside of this area, unfortunately your Good Dog credentials will not be valid. But The Good Dog Foundation will be happy to write you a letter of recommendation to be considered for other therapy dog organizations in your new location.
What’s the difference between therapy dogs, service dogs, and emotional support animals?
- A therapy dog is a pet that, in the company of its human handler, helps people in need at hospitals, schools, nursing homes, libraries and community centers during a specific scheduled visit. Therapy dogs do not have privileges or access beyond this function nor any protection or special allowances under federal law.
- A service dog is not considered a pet, but is a working dog that has been specifically selected and trained to live with and assist their human handler/owner in various daily tasks that improve the owner’s functioning and ability to operate independently. As such, service dogs are able to enter all public facilities in a well-behaved manner and are protected under federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act).
- An emotional support animal (ESA) is a pet protected under the Fair Housing Act. An ESA requires a written letter from the individual’s mental health provider that the animal’s presence in the owner’s home is necessary for the individual’s mental health and wellbeing. ESAs require no special training.
Do you have specific Covid-19 policies?
To ensure safety during the pandemic, Good Dog partnered with hospitals and experts in immunology / infectious disease. We redefined visit protocols to meet the challenges of an ongoing pandemic. All Volunteers visiting Good Dog Partner Facilities or enrolled in our in-person classes must:
➤ Be fully vaccinated + have FDA-advised boosters (as eligible)
➤ Wear proper face masks + use hand sanitizer
We will occasionally pause in-person therapy dog visits and classes if / when the pandemic flares up, and as we deem appropriate to protect our volunteers, trainers and those they serve.
For more, see Guidelines During A Pandemic.
For any other questions, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome an application from you and your dog.