Cold Nose, Warm Heart

Pictured: One of our therapy dogs, Porsche, always brings smiles to our patients and their families.

How to Become a Therapy Dog

If you own a dog, you understand the joys of canine companionship. But did you know that your four-legged friend could hold the power to heal? Research shows that therapy dogs help cancer patients cope with treatment, manage side effects and improve quality of life. Patients who spend time with our nurturing canines experience a much-needed distraction from the strain of a cancer diagnosis. Some additional benefits include:

  • Decreased anxiety and distress
  • Reduced pain
  • Improved blood pressure and heart rate
  • Emotional support
  • Companionship

But not every dog has what it takes. Natural healers are well socialized, even-tempered, healthy and obedient. They must undergo rigorous training and testing by either Therapy Dogs International (TDI) or Pet Partners to identify temperament in a health care facility. If they pass, the pups must complete six months of volunteer service before earning their spot as a Roswell Park Therapy Dog.

Here are some of the rules and regulations from TDI and Pet Partners for getting your furry friend certified:

  • Must be at least 1 year old at the time of evaluation
  • Must be healthy
  • Have lived in the owner’s home for at least six months
  • Must be reliably house trained
  • Be currently vaccinated against rabies
  • Have no history of aggression or seriously injuring either people or other companion animals. 
  • Demonstrate good basic obedience skills, such as walking on a loose leash, and responding reliably to common commands such as “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “come” and “leave it”
  • Welcome, not just tolerate, interactions with strangers
  • Owner must be 18 years or older or accompanied by an adult

If you meet the following criteria, then you are well on your way to improving the lives of cancer patients and their families. Testing fees for certification may apply, so check out TDI and Pet Partners requirements for more information.

Once your dog is certified, Roswell Park Volunteer Services requires the following criteria for the Therapy Dog program:

  • Dog must have six months of post-training volunteer service
  • Owner must be a registered Roswell Park volunteer

To learn more about Roswell Park's Therapy Dog program, visit our Volunteer Services office or call 716-845-5708.