Becoming a Therapy Dog Team

Frequently Asked Questions

Age Requirements for Dogs

Puppies aged five months and older are able to certify in our program. Read more about our puppy certifications. We do not have an upper age limit for certifying adult dogs, but we ask you to be respectful of your senior dog's limitations. We will explore age-related concerns during your exam. If we feel your dog is physically or mentally a poor candidate for therapy dog visits, we will not certify you as a team.

Age Requirements for Handlers

Therapy dog visits are a wonderful way for young people to bond with their dogs, gain skills and confidence, and learn a service ethic. We accept handlers beginning at 14 years old. Handlers between 14 and 18 must be accompanied at each step by the same legal guardian, and that guardian must accompany the minor handler on all visits until the handler turns 18. Minor handlers must be able to pass all requirements without assistance from their guardian. Guardians are not certified and insured to handle the dog unless they also complete all requirements with the dog.

Costs

Step 1 - Class: $150
Step 2 - Exam: $40
Step 3 - Practice Lab: $35
Step 4 - Registration: $50–$85 (we offer senior and veteran's discounts)
Your total outlay to get started will be $275–$310. Maintaining your certification will cost $90–$105 every two years. We do everything we can to keep costs down and we understand that this is a significant investment for our handlers. We work hard to provide the most valuable training and mentoring possible, and we are constantly improving our process and offerings. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Crisis Response

While we don't currently train or cover our teams for animal assisted crisis response, our certification is accepted by both Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response and National Animal Assisted Crisis Response. Many of our teams are also certified crisis response teams. Watch our video on animal assisted crisis response for more information.

Equipment

Because our emphasis is on safety for our dogs and those we visit, we teach our handlers to control their dogs with communication not equipment. We do not allow handlers to use choke or pinch collars of any kind. Leashes must be 6 feet or shorter and made of cloth or leather. Our handlers are welcome to use front clip harnesses or face halters if they need a little extra help. If you cannot control your dog without using a choke or pinch collar, please seek some additional training before enrolling in one of our classes. View the equipment infographic for a visual representation of our equipment requirements.

How long will it take me to complete my certification?

Depending on your schedule and readiness to test, certification can take 2–6 months. View the timeline infographic for a visual representation of our certification timeline.

Insurance

Our certified teams are covered for $5 million under our general liability insurance policy. Insurance applies while teams are conducting volunteer therapy visits only. Sorry, our insurance does not cover your dog's health or any accidents or incidents you might have in your day-to-day life. Our insurance currently applies to Washington and Oregon. The coverage area may be expanding soon. If you have questions about this please email us at info@projectcanine.org to get the most current information.

Multiple Dogs

We have many handlers with more than one certified dog. Because we assess teams at each step of our process, you must complete the entire process with each dog. Handlers may only visit with one dog at a time.

Off-Leash

Our teams must visit on a six-foot or shorter leather or fabric leash unless they have successfully passed our off-leash endorsement exam. Teams who are off-leash certified may visit off leash in circumstances where that is a safe choice for the dog and those being visited. This certification is only available to experienced teams who have made an application to the Board for approval.

Professional Providers

We welcome mental health providers and other health care professionals, but we cannot insure you for using your dog as part of your professional, paid work. Our insurance covers volunteer visiting only. If you are a professional provider wishing to use your dog as part of your practice, we encourage you to check with your professional insurer. A Project Canine certification might help you negotiate insurance coverage through your business insurance.

Puppies

We offer puppy certifications for experienced handlers with puppies between 5 and 12 months as well as for breeders and puppy raisers. See our Puppies page for more information.

Raw Protein Diets

We don't tell our handlers what to feed their dogs. We believe that's between you and your vet. Some facilities do prohibit raw-fed dogs, and we ask our handlers to abide by those policies.

Vaccines

A three-year rabies vaccine is required by WA state law. Beyond that we have no vaccine requirements for our teams. Again, we believe that how you vaccinate your dog is between you and your vet. However, some locations where therapy dogs visit might require more extensive vaccinations (particularly hospitals), and our teams must comply with the policies of the location where they visit.

Where is Project Canine Certification Available?

Currently we certify teams in WA and OR. If you live outside of these areas and would like to become a therapy dog team, please Google "therapy dogs" and the name of your city and state to find a group in your area.

Who Recognizes Project Canine Certification?

Our certification is accepted by the following national organizations: the AKC, Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response, National Animal Assisted Crisis Response, and Intermountain Therapy Animals. Project Canine certification is also accepted by most facilities and organizations.