You have decided that you do want to get your dog certified to be a therapy dog – and you understand the benefits involved with having your dog certified (see post: Why do I need to get my dog certified?) – so, your next question is: How do I get my dog certified? This often has people puzzled.
There are two main ways to go about this… you either join one of the national organizations such as Therapy Dogs International or Delta Society or you join a local organization such as Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, Inc. The two national organizations mentioned above are well known – and as one training instructor said to me, Some people are looking for the prestige of being a member of a national organization. Certainly, if that’s what you’re after, then national is the way to go. Bright Spot is a small organization serving Western Massachusetts. There are many such local organizations all over the country – just google therapy dogs and your area and you’ll come up with what you’re looking for. These small organizations are hands-on groups; they’re right there to assist you; perhaps mentor, instruct, and advise. I started as a member of Therapy Dogs International, quite frankly because that’s the only one I had heard of – and this was before the widespread use of the internet (way back then!) – and I was a member for 9 years before becoming involved with a local MSPCA group, and then founding Bright Spot.
Anyway, there are lots of options… google the groups… see what they have to offer their members. I know I’m bias, but Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, Inc. offers its members a lot for a nominal membership fee. Once you’ve zeroed in on the therapy dog group that interests you, then check out their requirements for getting your dog certified. Every group is different in the way they go about this procedure. There is no one answer that fits all.