National Capital Therapy Dogs
Become a Pet Therapy Team
There are four basic steps involved in becoming a pet therapy team with NCTD. While the process may seem intense, and perhaps even a bit daunting, it is necessary to train each team on how to handle various situations that may arise while volunteering. We work closely with you and your pet in order to set you up for success and to help ensure a fun and rewarding volunteer experience.
Before starting on your journey to become a pet therapy team, you and your pet must meet the following prerequisites:
Register for Classes/Evaluation
Generally, NCTD sponsors training and evaluation for new volunteers in the Baltimore-Washington area approximately four times each year. Because our volunteers come from a wide area, classes are held in various locations (usually Howard or Montgomery County MD) to allow for easier access for participants. Early registration is always appreciated as our classes can fill up quickly.
To begin, you must preregister for our three educational events:
Dates and times for our classes and evaluations can be found on the Calendar of Events. Selectng the desired event will take you to the online registration page where you can also make a secure payment through PayPal.
Alternatively, you can print and fill out the NCTD Registration Form, and mail it to us with a check. Please refer to the Contact Us page for the relevant street address to use. Note that paper registration forms may not be reviewed and acknowledged until shortly before the event. Until then, assume you are registered.
Please direct any questions pertaining to classes or evaluations to the Director of Training on our Leadership Team.
This one day intensive training class for prospective therapy animal handlers is taught by trained NCTD instructors. The class features lecture and PowerPoint presentations, class discussion, role play, demonstration, and videos. It will cover topics such as therapy animal team registration requirements, different health care settings and populations, visiting tips and techniques, and managing stress and difficult situations.
The fee for this course includes a resource guide, which will be distributed at the class.
Therapy Dog Training Class
This class is for potential volunteers and their pets who would like to prepare for therapy work.
NCTD Training Class Mall Visit
The 6th class (mall visit) may be a different day, time, and location from the other classes.
Therapy Team Evaluation
After training, NCTD will perform an evaluation to determine if you and your animal are ready to start visiting. Note that this is a different event from your training classes and you must register in advance for an evaluation.
Team evaluations are performed by NCTD Team Evaluators. Your evaluator will be looking for reliable and predictable volunteer teams who will inspire confidence in clients.
In the evaluation, you and your animal will demonstrate that you are able to work as team, that your animal is under control, and that you and your animal are friendly and relate well to the role players and evaluator. All of these skills are described and practiced during the NCTD training classes.
What to Bring:
Teams that pass the team evaluation and wish to work with NCTD will be assigned a mentor as part of NCTD's mentor program.
NCTD New Team Checklist
Register as an NCTD Team
When you pass the NCTD evaluation, you may register as an NCTD Volunteer Team immediately if you bring your completed veterinary form (the NCTD Health Status Report) with you. You will receive an acceptance letter and an ID photo will be taken.
If you do not have your veterinary form, you will be given the address to send it to. When we receive everything, you will be added to our volunteer roster and to our E-mail mailing list. NCTD volunteers enjoy access to additional sections of the NCTD website, the ability to purchase NCTD gear, and special members-only events.
We communicate with our volunteers through a combination of group e-mail messages, web site information, and our e-newsletter.
Your NCTD "Uniform"
When you visit on behalf of NCTD, you must have an acceptable collar and leash for your animal, as well as the "NCTD Photo ID", which you will receive after you pass the team evaluation.
There are two choices for the animal's uniform:
NCTD also asks that handlers purchase a shirt with the NCTD logo through Land’s End. (We will give you the needed ordering information when you pass your team evaluation.) While not required, NCTD attire helps us maintain a professional image. Otherwise, be neat, clean, and comfortable.
Please note that in some cases, an individual facility may have their own specific dress requirements. Many require that we wear a shirt with the NCTD logo. Others may have general restrictions such as no jeans or shorts. So be sure to ask about it when applying to a facility.
Select a Facility to Visit
You can find a list of NCTD-approved facilities on the Facility Directory page. If you already know the facility you want to visit, you may contact the NCTD Facility Coordinator for that site directly.
As you consider various facilities, you should know that some have specific requirement for volunteers. These may include things such as pre-screening, volunteer training, background checks, medical tests, or flu shots. Information on specific volunteer requirements is usually on the facility's website or available through their Volunteer office. The NCTD facility coordinator for that facility can also help you with this.
Don’t know where to start? Contact the Regional Director in your area and we will help you find a suitable placement. You can find those contacts on the NCTD Leadership Team list.
Mentoring & Visiting
Once you select a facility, you will be assigned a mentor who will help you get on board and begin visiting with your pet partner. Generally, the process works like this:
Pre-Visit One or More NCTD Facilities
Arrange a date and time with your NCTD mentor when you can observe a visit at one or more of facilities in our Facility Directory. Pre-visits are done without your animal teammate. A pre-visit allows you to get familiar with the facility, as well as to address any additional facility-specific requirements (i.e. proof of a negative TB test, orientation through the volunteer office, facility ID, copy of animal's health forms). A pre-visit also provides an opportunity for you to ask questions of your mentor.
With NCTD's variety of facilities, feel free to pre-visit as many facilities as you wish to find the facility that best suits your team's needs. We recommend you start by visiting with your animal at only one facility and expand from there.
Your First Team Visit
Your first official visit at a facility will be one where you shadow and observe your mentor with her/his pet partner. On the next visit, your mentor will leave her/his animal at home and observe you on a visit with your animal. Your mentor can provide valuable feedback! If needed or requested, by you or the mentor, your mentor can observe you for additional visits.
Congratulations! It has been a lot of work for you and your animal partner, but you are now ready to start visiting on a regular basis.
Regular NCTD Visits
As an NCTD Volunteer, you are responsible for abiding by all NCTD policies and procedures. Also, in order to maintain an active volunteer status, you should:
Have fun visiting!