Can my dog* make the grade to be a CAAA pet therapy volunteer?



Text Box: Generally speaking CAAA dogs* must:
o        Always be under control and responsive to basic obedience commands 
o        consistently exhibit good manners and a sound, stable, friendly temperament
o        be well presented 




Minimum age:   1 year. 

Basic training requirements:

  • Walks calmly on leash without pulling
  • Attentive to handler (e.g., watches handler, waits for direction; responds to commands)
  • If overexcited at any point, calms down in response to handler’s guidance and commands
  • Doesn’t jump or put paws on people or beds, unless invited by handler
  • Doesn’t lick or give kisses without being invited and will stop when told to do
  • Responds to basic commands such as: sit, down or stand still; responds to a “leave it” type of command, when tempted with food, trash cans, etc.
  • Doesn’t eliminate or relieve him/herself inappropriately, especially indoors.  This includes territorial and scent marking and submissive urination.  


  • Shows absolutely no signs of aggression, including  aggression over food or toward people or other animals
  • Shows no excessive fear or anxiety;  recovers quickly, if startled
  • Comfortable with and adaptable to:
    • strangers, including people with awkward movements; groups of people 
    • strange environments with strange smells, sounds (e.g., public address systems; shouting voices;  noisy carts)
    • Unfamiliar equipment (e.g., walkers; wheelchairs; floor polishers; vacuums).
    • Unusual touching (e.g., palsied hand movement, having his/her body manipulated by handler to position it to interact   


  • well groomed (including odor-free; clean, clipped nails; no ticks, fleas)
  • on a collar free of decorations or tags that could scratch a resident
  • No spike or pinch collars are allowed. A cloth or nylon collar preferred.
  • Always on a leash:  a short leash (3 ft. or less) is recommended for working dogs in a facility.  <No retractable leads or long lines>

While passing the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test is not a requirement, it covers most of the behaviors needed in social pet therapy dogs.  It can serve as a good reference point to help you evaluate your dog.  Visit AKC website at:  


*Cats and other species are evaluated by similar standards for behavior and temperament.

Draft #3 Nov 2009 

C.A.A.A.   P.O. Box 5006   Scottsdale, Arizona 85261-5006   (602) 258-3306

© 2003-2009 by Companion Animal Association of Arizona, Inc. All rights reserved