The purpose of this program is to provide standards for Pet Therapy K9’s and their handlers. Therapy K9’s visit many facilities such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, veterans homes, etc. All Therapy teams are required to meet each standard to qualify to visit any facility as a NOCSAR Therapy K9 Team. There are two parts to each evaluation. Part 1 is the Skills test and Part 2 is the Aptitude test. All K9’s and handlers must pass both for certifications.

All K9’s must be up to date on all vaccinations, as listed and have an annual exam by a Veterinarian. Teams will be visiting many environments that require a standard of care for animals. Each Handler must know the difference between Therapy K9’s, Service K9’s and emotional support K9s’. The questionnaire for handlers must be initialed and signed to acknowledge they understand the differences between each one and the sole responsibilities of what the role of a Therapy K9 duties include. Each handler is responsible and liable for the handling and actions of their K9. Each team must work together to ensure the safety of the handlers, K9’s and the people they are visiting.

Therapy K9 Team Levels of Certification

LEVEL 1 Environments:

Limited Access to Facilities

LEVEL 2 Environments:

Open to all facilities that the K9 team and Handler are comfortable with.

At the time of the team evaluations, the evaluator will determine the type of environments that the Therapy canine team may visit. This will be noted on the testing sheet / official documents.

If any team is found to fail any areas of Therapy K9 work while on visits or misrepresenting themselves as a certified NOCSAR Therapy K9 Team, they will lose the ability to remain a representative of NOCSAR Therapy K9 Team.

NOCSAR Therapy K9 Certification

Part 1 Skills Test

Accepting a friendly Stranger

(Handler shaking hands with another person)

Petting from a stranger

(Another person petting K9)

Grooming and appearance

(Another person brushing with a brush provided by handler, touching of paws)

Walking with handler

(K9 must walk with handler, no jumping)

Walking through a crowd 

(Handler and K9 walk around other people and stop to greet them)

Sit on Command 

(K9 must sit when handler gives the command)

Down on command 

(K9 must down when given command)

Reaction to distractions 

(One visual and one loud. This will be up to the evaluator)

Stay in place 

(Handler must give the k9 their command and lay down a long lead and walk away from K9. The K9 must stay at a 2-3 second pause and then handler can return back to K9).

Come when called 

(Handler must have K9 stay in one spot and walk away, and then call their K9 back to them)

Reaction to a neutral dog 

Leaving K9 with another person 

(K9 must be left with another person for a couple minutes with handler out of site. K9 must remain calm until handler returns)

*Each Team must pass each skill to become a certified NOCSAR Therapy K9 Team. 


                                Part Two-Aptitude Test

Overall examination 

(K9 must remain calm while evaluator runs hands over K9 and checks paws, ears, etc.)

Clumsy Petting 

(K9 must remain calm while evaluator is clumsy petting-Note: This may happen with a person with disabilities)

Restraining hug 

(Evaluator will give your K9 a hug and they must remain calm)

Strange gesturing and staggering movements 

(K9 must remain calm when person approaches and walks around)

Angry and possible loud yelling 

(K9 must remain calm. The person yelling must calm and then call K9)

Crowded and pet by several people 

(K9 must allow others to pet them)

Leave it 

(Distractions such as toys or food will be put on floor. The K9 must walk by and leave item alone)

Offer Treat 

(Evaluator will hold out a flat palm hand and offer a treat to K9. It is acceptable if K9 does not want treat, but must react in a friendly and kind behavior)

Overall Assessment 

(The evaluator will assess the overall aptitude of the Handler and K9 team)

*These evaluations are to assess each Therapy Team to real world events in different environments. This is for the safety of Handlers, K9s and the people they are visiting.

Each Team will be given an opportunity to Certify and renew their membership on an annual basis. K9’s aptitudes change over time and ensuring that the Handlers and their K9’s are meeting the NOCSAR Therapy K9 Team standards, annual evaluations will be required.

Teams will be certified by qualified Therapy K9 specialists that have experience in training and/or working as a  Therapy K9 handler.

Therapy K9’s play a special role in providing comfort to those who need and/or want the comfort from a trained K9 that can be there for them.