Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs of Houston

-People Helping Dogs Helping People

Frequently Asked Questions

Do us a favor and read through this section before contacting us with questions. Of course, if your question is not addressed here please contact us so we may post the most significant issues in the future.

1) Does my dog have to be a certain age to be a therapy dog?

Yes. Your dog must be at least one year old before it can be evaluated. We believe a puppy is never too young to be socialized and trained if being a therapy dog is of interest. However, many of our members' dogs did not become therapy dogs until they were several years old.

2) Is there a maximum age for therapy dogs?

No. Dogs may be of any age as long as they are healthy and along with their owners they can pass the certification process. Some members of our chapter serve with dogs that did not consider therapy dog work until they were "middle aged" or even older.

3) I want to become a therapy dog team with my puppy/dog? What do we have to do in order to pass the test?

Great question and one of the ones we are asked the most. Our chapter does not provide any formal training classes at this time. However, we do encourage you to visit the certification section of this website that describes the certification requirements in detail. We are basically focused on whether our potential team members have basic obedience skills, as well as appropriate temperament for the type of work they will be doing. We would encourage perspective members to train their dogs as if they were preparing for the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) exam while combining the elements of the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs (B&BTD) certification evaluation.

4) Does my dog have to be an AKC CGC?

No.  Although many of our members are also CGC title holders, this is not a requirement of our organization nor is CGC certification the same as the B&BTD certification process. One of the biggest differences between the CGC evaluation and the B&BTD evaluation involves separation of the dog from the handler. While the CGC test requires the dog to be separated from the handler for a brief period, the B&BTD evaluation never involves the handler relinquishing control of the dog. The B&BTD evaluation also involves the introduction of certain medical equipment that may not always be used during the CGC evaluation process.

5) Does my dog have to be a purebred dog to be a therapy dog?

No. Any dog may become a Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dog including mixed breed dogs. Some of our best therapy dogs have been rescues from animal shelters.

6) What types of facilities does the BBTD Houston Chapter visit?

Currently, we visit hospitals, nursing homes, elementary schools and the Houston Ronald McDonald House. We are always working on adding new members and new facilities to our list of locations to visit. Please visit our Where We Go webpage on this Website for more information on facilities we visit.

7) Once we are certified, can I visit any facility I want with my therapy dog?

No. Our chapter makes visits to facilities that we have preexisting agreements with in groups. Those who visit facilities outside those sponsored by the organization and chapter absent authorization are not allowed to represent themselves as B&BTD members and will not be covered by the group's insurance carrier.

8) What if my dog doesn't pass the test? Do I lose my money? Can I retake the test?

If your dog doesn't pass the certification process on the first try, they may retake the test as soon as the team feels they are ready to do so and as soon as the certification process is reoffered by evaluators. The fee is nonrefundable although we work hard to keep the evaluation fee low ($20) to avoid severe financial loss to potential new members. That being said, do not feel bad if you do not pass as some of our most successful teams did not pass on their first try. If a team does not pass on the first try and must retest, they will not be charged another testing fee.

9) My dog has never been to obedience school. Can we still become a certified therapy dog team?

Yes. The B&BTD certification process is not designed to promote obedience competition. Rather it is much less formal than that, but it does seek to ensure that dogs are well behaved in the types of environments that will be encountered while they are working. It is helpful for potential members to have attended structured obedience training with their dogs but it is not a requirement. That being said, the certification test does require basic obedience skills such as the ability to come, sit, and stay.

10) Does my dog have to meet any health requirements to be a therapy dog?

Yes. Dogs must be clean, neat, and free of parasites. Dogs must also have their nails trimmed and teeth brushed before they can visit facilities. Teams are required to have proof of vaccinations each year, and evidence of testing to ensure they are parasite free. Proof of vaccinations and health certification must be documented and presented each year when membership is renewed.

11) Are there any health requirements for handlers?

In some cases, some of the facilities that we visit require the human members of teams to provide evidence of vaccinations to include annual flu shots and Tb testing. Some also require volunteers to consent to background checks before they are allowed to begin making visits. Members wishing to visit specific facilities should inquire with us about the requirements for volunteers either prior to or at the time of testing. Please contact us using the contact us page of our website with questions rather than contacting the facilities we serve.  Even if you feel the requirements to visit a facility are too stringent, we may be able to suggest an alternative location you would enjoy.

12) Once we are certified as a team, is it alright for my spouse, neighbor, or friend to take the dog on visits?

No. That is not how it works. When you are certified, the certification applies to the handler and dog as a team. You may not allow another person to handle your dog during visits unless they have also been tested/certified as a team with your dog. If additional family members in the same household will handle a dog, there is an additional $15 fee for each handler. For example, if a parent seeks to certify a dog, they must pay the onetime $20 certification/testing fee, and the annual membership fee of $50 the first year and $40 each year thereafter. If the same parent wants a child to test/certify with the same dog, they must then pay an additional $20 testing/certification fee, but will only be charged an additional $15 membership fee (rather than another annual membership fee). Basically, this policy requires any member testing or seeking certification with any dog, regardless of whether the dog is certified with someone else, to pay a $20 fee for testing, and then for additional family members to pay $15 each for membership.

13) Can my son or daughter (who is under the age of ??) take the dog on visits?

Many of our members are junior handlers who proudly serve their communities while working with their pets. Children can test and become members of our organization at age 14, but must be accompanied by a parent during visits. Certified teams are allowed to make visits on their own at age 16.

14) I want to make a complaint about something that happened during a B&BTD visit? What can I do?

All of our volunteers work very hard to make sure that visits are beneficial for both those being visited and our dogs. Occasionally, we either fall short or unanticipated events occur from time to time. We need to know about them to address them and prevent them from happening again. Please contact our program director Joan Lawrence by email at

15) Can my cat, horse, ferret or snake participate in animal assisted therapy.

No. Not through B&BTD. However, other animal assisted therapy organizations do have provisions for allowing other species of animals to participate in this important activity. However, at this time B&BTD only certifies and allows dogs to visit the facilities we have agreements with to provide our services.

16) Can I observe a therapy dog visit before I join B&BTD of Houston?

Yes. and we encourage you to do so. Coming on a visit with us without your dog is a great way to learn what we are all about, what we do, and what will be expected of you and your dog. Please contact our program director through the contact us template to arrange a pre membership meeting or visit. We would love to talk to you and show you how much fun therapy dog work can be.

17) Can I deduct donations to B&BTD from my income taxes?

Our parent organization, The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable entity. Donations are accepted and appreciated and provide a wonderful way to memorialize those special friends we have lost. Please consider a donation to help further our important work by visiting clicking on "Donate Now!"

18) I have more questions about becoming certified and/or therapy dog work. Is there anybody that can help me?

Yes. We would be glad to talk to you and answer your questions. You can reach us by using the contact us section of this website. We look forward to speaking with you and hope you join us in making visits.

19) If I have already been certified with my dog by another therapy dog organization, do we still have to take the certification test to become members of Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs?

Yes. Certifications awarded by other therapy dog organizations do not automatically "transfer," and are not recognized by Bright and Beautiful. All members must be tested and certified by Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dog evaluators prior to making visits to facilities.

20) My therapy dog and I are certified members of another therapy dog organization actively engaged in making visits to a facility. We would also like to be a member of B&BTD to make visits to a visit on the B&BTD list of approved facilities. Can I be a member of more than one therapy dog organization than B&BTD?

Yes. Membership in B&BTD does not preclude membership in other therapy dog organizations, but you must maintain your active status in B&BTD. It is also important to check with the other organization you are a member of to ensure that they allow members to join other therapy dog organizations.