Professional Therapy Dogs

Service dog assisting person in a wheelchairFSD has partnered with the University of Denver’s  Institute for the Human/Animal Bond, and the Graduate School of Social Work to pioneer a professional therapy dog program. We train shelter dogs as professional therapy dogs for Social Work graduates specializing in the field of animal assisted therapy.

Our cutting edge program addresses the increasing demand for professionals with the ability to offer specialized animal assisted therapy to clients. By providing dogs that have been fully trained to effectively assist therapists during clinical one-on-one and group therapy sessions, we are promoting animal assisted therapy safely and ethically. Graduate students are invited to apply for a therapy dog during their second year of graduate work.

Dogs are selected by our organization based on temperament, and must meet stringent health requirements. FSD’s professional trainers, train the dogs in basic and advanced obedience. The dogs also have the opportunity to participate in our Pawsitive Connection groups for additional evaluation. Once the dogs meet a certain standard, they are placed with students. The team then participates in additional training at FSD to ensure appropriate handling. Once the team passes the Canine Good Citizenship test, the dog is certified by FSD as a professional therapy dog, and the team is free to pursue their joint career!

Providing professional therapy dogs is just one way that FSD seeks to promote the special bond between dogs and humans. We see therapeutic value in so many of the interactions that we witness between our clients and their dogs, that professional therapy dogs are a natural extension of the groundbreaking work that we already do. Teams that have graduated with a therapy dog have gone on to work with a variety of populations, from children in foster care, to the elderly in hospice care. We know our dogs are an integral piece in the life-changing work that these students have chosen to pursue, and their success reinforces what we know instinctually: a relationship with a dog really can change your life.