Thank you for your interest in becoming a volunteer with Therapy Dogs of Santa Barbara!

Our therapy dog teams help improve people’s lives through ARF! reading sessions, book presentations, and wellness visits. Volunteers help us fulfill our mission to empower people to live more fulfilling lives through the human-animal bond.

Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization and their dedication is unsurpassed!

Become a Therapy Dog Team

Becoming a therapy dog team is the most meaningful way to serve as a volunteer.

A therapy dog team provides quality interactions with the community we serve and strives to help fulfill our mission to empower people to live more fulfilling lives. It is a true team experience, and you and your dog must be dedicated to completing the training and certification process.

Start with the Basics

You and your dog must meet these general qualifications before taking any further steps to become a therapy team:

  • Your dog must be at least 1 year of age
  • Your dog must have up-to-date rabies and vaccination records
  • Handlers must be at least 18 years old, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian

Qualities we look for in our therapy dogs

  • Seeks and enjoys human interaction and meeting a variety of new people
  • Accepts vigorous petting by crowds of people
  • Demonstrates basic obedience skills such as controlled leash walking, “sit,” “stay,” “down,” “come,” and “leave it”
  • Friendly (or neutral) around other dogs
  • Does not jump, paw, or mouth people or other dogs
  • Comfortable with medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, or other moving objects
  • Does not react strongly to unexpected loud noises
  • Does not exhibit aggression or show fear towards other animals or people
  • Strong, positive connection between dog and handler

Expectations Of A Handler

  • Understand, believe and uphold the mission of the organization
  • Successfully pass a LiveScan (background check) and TB test
  • Volunteer a minimum of 20 hours per calendar year
  • Maintain up-to-date training, registration and paperwork
  • Provide a positive, warm experience during a visit
  • Uphold all our policies, including confidentiality
  • Have a strong, and positive bond between you and your dog
  • Have a strong desire to serve others in our community with your dog
  • The ability and desire to meet new people and make them feel comfortable
  • The capacity to work in partnership with other therapy dog teams at program sites
  • Bathe or groom your dog within 24 hours prior to a visit
  • Awareness of the needs and behaviors of your dog when around other animals and people
  • Maintain timely communication with our staff

Ready to Apply?

To learn about our onboarding process for new therapy dog teams, please Click Here.

Have more questions? Check out our Volunteer FAQs.