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Community Support

Title Your Therapy Dog

Did you know that your therapy dog can earn official AKC (American Kennel Club) therapy dog titles? While the title is just a piece of paper, it is symbolic of the commitment and volunteer hours you spend in partnership with your therapy dog.

There are five titles your dog can earn based on the number of visits you and your dog have completed:

  • AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN) (10 visits)
  • AKC Therapy Dog (THD) (50 visits)
  • AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) (100 visits)
  • AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX) (200 visits)
  • AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD) (400 visits)

Both of our directors, Debbie Glessner and Wendi Huttner, happened to learn about the official AKC therapy dog titles. Debbie and Wendi were volunteering with their dogs and recording their sessions. As a result, they already had all the data needed to apply for the appropriate titles.

  • Debbie’s black Labrador Retriever, Hannah, has enough visits to get the Distinguished title at least twice!
  • Wendi’s black Labrador Retriever, Wes, also held the Distinguished title. Wes was our organization’s founding therapy dog.

Currently working Nor’wester therapy dogs holding titles are:

  • THD (50 visits)

Genny (Paula Herman)
Patrick (Kathy Gardosh)

  • THDA (100 visits)

Secret (Nancy Jorczak)
Sam (Kathy Gardosh)

  • THDX (200 visits)

Moon (Nancy Jorczak)
Drusy (Nancy Jorczak)

  • THDD (400 visits)

Hannah (Debbie Glessner)

When I asked Debbie what the benefits were from acquiring titles, she said: “The benefits were purely personal. I believe that all volunteers appreciate affirmation and recognition for their commitment.”

It’s not difficult to get a title. Of course, your dog must meet a few requirements before you can think about applying for one:

  1. Your dog must be certified or registered with a therapy dog organization recognized by the AKC. The AKC recognizes many therapy dog organizations. Here are a few of them:
  2. Bright and Beautiful
  3. Alliance of Therapy Dogs (formerly Therapy Dogs Incorporated)

You can find a long list of recognized organizations on this AKC page.

  • Your dog must be registered or listed with the AKC to get a number that is used to identify them with the AKC. If your dog is a registered purebred, then you already have a number. You can still get a number even if your dog is a mixed breed or an unregistered purebred.

There is also a bit of paperwork you must do:

  1. Track your dog’s visits.  Visits must be documented with the time, date, location, and a signature of a staff person at the facility where you visited. You can use the handy form the AKC provides called the Therapy Dog Record of Visits Sheet, or a certificate or card from your therapy dog organization showing the number of visits made by your dog, or you can ask the facility where you are volunteering to provide a letter on their letterhead.
  2. Complete the AKC Therapy Dog Title Application and mail it to the AKC with the fee (currently $20).

Why not get recognized for the wonderful work that your therapy dog is already doing? Want to get started or learn more? Visit the Therapy Dog page on the AKC website.