Frequently Asked Questions

About participating in Caring Canines:

The procedure for you and your dog to become a certified therapy dog/handler team with Caring Canines is:
  • completion and submission of our brief online application,
  • an observation visit by you to one of our group visits without your dog,
  • a successful evaluation of you and your dog as a team, and
  • three supervised training visits assisted by a Caring Canines mentor
More details of Caring Canines requirements can be found on our How to Volunteer page.  A general overview of the Caring Canines operation can be determined by reviewing this FAQ section.  The observation visit will enable you to observe a group visit, without your dog. This observation visit serves as an orientation to our program and offers a preview of what a typical visit might be like of you and your dog.  This visit should give you a good sense of whether your dog has the temperament and skills needed for work as a therapy dog.  Additionally, it provides you with an opportunity to chat with team leaders, team members, and evaluators and to communicate and questions, comments, or concerns you may have.

No, you don’t. All Caring Canines Visiting Therapy Dogs activities are covered through our insurance policy with Hanover Insurance Company.  The liability policy protects the organization and its members for any negligence causing bodily injury and/or property damage to a third party in aggregate of up to $2,000,000. The insurance is primary, with no deductible.


  • Coverage is for the registered handler only and applies only while participating in a Caring Canines’ activity with the dog certified and registered with the handler.
  • Handler must comply with the safety procedures in the Caring Canines’ visiting Guidelines to be qualified for coverage.
  • Caring Canines’ insurance covers the handler only when participating in Caring Canines’ activities.  It does not provide coverage for any independently scheduled or conducted visits unless handler receives prior approval from the Program Coordinator to conduct a visit on behalf of Caring Canines.

We require an up to date rabies vaccination record for all dogs.  Dogs must have received their core puppy shots (distemper, parvovirus, and CAV-2).  We also require that dogs be vaccinated annually for bordetella (kennel cough) and leptospirosis.  These requirements are for the safety of our dogs and the patients we visit.

We recommend against a raw food diet because it can harbor bacteria that can be transferred from dog to human, resulting in human illness.  This is especially true among the populations we visit, as many of them have weakened immune systems.  If you do feed your dog a raw food diet, we request that you do it several hours before a visit and that you wash your dog’s muzzle before visiting.  This is based on guidance from the CDC and Tufts vet school.

Caring Canines conducts visits during the week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, generally in the early afternoon. Weekend visits are generally on Saturday mornings at 10:20 a.m. and on Sunday afternoons at 1:50 p.m.

No, at this time we are not scheduling any evening visits.

Each visiting session begins with all of the team members gathering outside the facility for a ten-minute “meet and greet.”  This time period affords each dog the opportunity to meet the other dogs and to settle in as a pack.  The team enters the facility at the scheduled time (generally 10:30 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.) and will visit with, on average, 15 to 25 residents for approximately 35 minutes.

Upon becoming certified, you will receive a schedule of visits each Monday by e-mail. The schedule will list the visits to the various facilities for the next several weeks, and you may request to be scheduled based on your selection(s) from this list. 

Caring Canines asks that  each certified handler commit to ten visits per calendar year.  We operate September through mid-June. 

Each therapy dog organization has its own standards and many do not operate with multiple dog visits.  Each dog/handler team, regardless of previous certifications, must successfully complete the Caring Canines certification procedure. 

Each dog must be evaluated separately and individually with the handler and also accomplish their mentoring visits individually. After certification, the handler can make visits with a single dog only. The handler only needs to make one guest orientation visit. 

After certification, children 10 years or older may accompany a dog/handler team on certain visits after prior approval by the scheduling team. However, many of our visits are at hospitals, schools and safe houses where children are never allowed to attend.
For safety reasons during the visit the child is not be permitted to give the dog any instructions or commands and is not be permitted to hold the leash.
Due to the limited involvement of the accompanying child our program is not suitable as a community service project for children.

Also, only one youngster or visitor may join the visiting group of dog/handlers, and the visitor needs to be scheduled with the Caring Canines Scheduling Coordinator. 

Because of the nature of our therapy work, a dog and handler in our organization is certified as a team and is considered an entity for working within the Caring Canines program. Two handlers may be certified separately with a single dog. With the exception of the guest orientation visit, each handler must accomplish the certification process separately and independently. Substitute handlers or dogs are not permitted. 

The Caring Canines visiting area lies along or within the Route 128 belt of metropolitan Boston and includes some outlying communities.  It has been Caring Canines’ experience that volunteers outside of our visiting range leave the program very quickly. After spending time and effort completing the certification process, this is disappointing to the volunteer and Caring Canines. We encourage those beyond our operating area to look for local opportunities that would be easier for them and their animals. They may wish to research pet therapy programs listed on our Links page.

Unfortunately, being an all volunteer organization with limited resources, Caring Canines is only able to offer therapy dog evaluation and certification to handlers applying to participate in our program. Our underwriter agreements allow for visits by certified handlers only within the Caring Canines program.

Regretfully, we very rarely have opportunities for volunteers without dogs. Our operational and administrative tasks are accomplished by volunteers who are also active dog handlers. 

It is unreasonable to expect to participate in the Caring Canines program using public transportation.  Although it’s possible to get to most Caring Canine visits by public transportation, it has been found to be exhausting both for the handler and the dog. The stress of the transportation activity causes the team to be too tired or too distracted to be an effective visiting unit.

Caring Canines is an all volunteer organization which includes administration and operations staff.  Caring Canines volunteers reside in the Boston metropolitan area and surrounding suburbs.  All administrative and operational tasks are accomplished in volunteers’ home offices.

General Questions:

There are no quick and easy answers for developing a therapy dog.  Personality and demeanor are significant factors in the dog becoming a useful visiting therapy dog, and many dogs just do not have adequate interest in the job to be successful or useful.   This document gives a brief summary of what traits we look for and what traits may make your dog unsuitable for our program.

The dog needs to be well socialized.  Exposing a dog as much as possible to new sights, sounds, smells, other dogs and people of all ages will help your dog in becoming well socialized. The dog should have some basic obedience skills, and when learned, these skills should be part of the dog and handler’s daily activities so that they become second nature and a way of life. 

Caring Canines is not capable of giving you a referral regarding a trainer. There are over 100 dog/handler volunteer teams active in the organization, each with its own individual training experiences.  None of these associations are privileged to Caring Canines, only the results. There are many trainers and some training clubs in the Boston metropolitan area. There is also at least one major pet store chain that offers several canine training programs. Your veterinarian would also be a reliable source for referrals. 

Most puppies need to be at least 18 months old to have gained the maturity and stability required to be successful therapy dogs. They also need to develop the stamina and resistance to distractions that comes with maturity.  Each dog matures at its own rate.  Caring Canines does not make any exceptions to our minimum requirement of one year old.  Unfortunately, it is our experience that most one year old dogs fail their evaluation and need more time to mature and develop.  Anticipating a new puppy to develop into a therapy dog in one year could well lead to disappointment.  Also keep in mind that not all dogs will be interested in or enjoy therapy visits. 

Basically one cannot select a puppy that will mature to a successful therapy dog. The puppy’s demeanor and interest in visiting when mature cannot be predicted.  A reputable breeder should be intimately familiar with their litter and can recognize some general potentials, but the breeder is not able to predict an animal’s exact traits and interests at maturity.  Solicit selection help from the breeder to the extent they are comfortable.  During development and maturing, it is important for you to allow the puppy exposure to a wide variety of reasonable situations. These exposures should be for a frequency and duration long enough for you to identify an interest well beyond curiosity.  It is then up to you to find ways for you and your dog to develop these interests and put them in service.