Training / Volunteering

Volunteer Certification

Some dogs can help humans heal.
Our mission is to teach them how.

The Good Dog Foundation believes the dog-human bond, Earth’s oldest interspecies relationship, is so strong it can be used to ease human suffering and support learning.

  • We will train you as a volunteer (if you can donate an hour weekly or monthly) – and teach you to team with your dog to help people in need at schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities across the Tri-State Metro Area.

Good Dog training and deploying methods are globally renowned for best-practices and safety. We are advised by experts in immunology, infectious disease, psychology, veterinary medicine and animal-assisted therapy and conduct vital research to advance therapy dog uses and outcomes.

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.

Automated Scheduling & Feedback. Our automated, mobile-phone scheduling tool, in development, will let you plan therapy dog visits at your convenience and quickly report visit outcomes.
Guidance To Ensure A Match. Good Dog guides you to opportunities for therapy dog visits matching your dog’s unique personality and other characteristics.
Protection For Your Dog. We limit volunteering to one hour a day to protect dogs from fatigue and stress in challenging environments like hospitals, schools, etc. As a handler, you’ll find your pet gives its all when wearing the Good Dog bandana.

Visit Opportunities

  • 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

1. Apply
Complete an online application. See below, but please review all information here before you apply.

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.

After the evaluation, our trainer will determine if you and your dog are appropriate candidates for our Therapy Skills course.
2. Take Our Therapy Skills Course

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.

3. Shadow Visit / Certification

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.

Have your veterinarian “clear” your dog for therapy work by completing a medical form, which you submit.

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.

Following a successful Shadow Visit, you will be mailed a Certification Packet with credentials enabling you and your dog to volunteer at Good Dog Partner Facilities.
4. Re-Certification

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.

You will submit an updated veterinary medical form along with a renewed Volunteer Agreement.
There is an $85 annual re-certification fee.
Things to Consider

These behaviors disqualify your dog from therapy work:

Aggression towards humans or dogs

Marked signs of fearfulness or shyness
Lack of house-training skills

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:

Rough or abusive handling of their dog
Unwillingness to follow the Good Dog training schedule or trainer instruction
Unwillingness to follow policies of our partner facilities


Handlers must be at least 18 years old and be legal owners or live with their dog
All dogs must be at least one year old and have lived with their handlers for at least 4 months

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 in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, Good Dog partnered with hospitals and experts in immunology and infectious disease. We defined our visit protocols to meet the challenges of an evolving pandemic, as follows: 

  • Good Dog therapy dog teams must abide by the policies and procedures of each individual Good Dog partner-facility they visit, including policies on Covid-19 and other health-related issues. The facility being visited is responsible for conveying its requirements in advance to Good Dog volunteers during or before the process of scheduling visits.


  • Our volunteers may not enter or remain in a Partner Facility if feeling ill or having cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, or other Covid-19 associated symptoms recognized by the CDC. 
  • Volunteers who contract Covid-19 or have had close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with Covid-19 are advised to refer to CDC guidelines, which are updated on a regular basis.

For any other questions, please feel free to email

We welcome an application from you and your dog.