The purpose of the PUPs Program is to train volunteers and their pets to visit patients in facilities and to attend community events. The program welcomes both purebred and mixed-breed dogs. The program is fun and very meaningful to the people we serve.

Dogs will need to be certified from Therapy Dog International (TDI) and Therapy Dog, Inc and may qualify for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test. While many dogs provide love and companionship in the home, not all dogs are qualified or have the temperament suited to be a Therapy Dog.

You can prepare for certification by practicing the following requirements:

1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger
Will the dog permit a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural everyday situation. Can the stranger shake hands. The dog must show no signs of shyness
or aggression. This applies to adults and especially small children.

The dog should be tested with medical equipment such as a wheelchair, walker, cane, crutches or other devices.

2. Sitting Politely for Petting
The dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. The dog will sit at the handler’s side as the stranger approaches and begins to pet the dog on the head and body only. The dog should remain in place to accept petting.

3. Appearance and Grooming
The dog will permit a stranger to examine and comb or brush it. The dog will accept an examination of the ears and each foot.

4. Walking on a Loose Leash
The dog may walk on either side of the handler, but the handler should be in control. There must be a left turn, right turn and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The dog should be aligned with the handler and does not need to sit when the handler stops.

5. Walking Through a Crowd
The dog will move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places.
The dog and handler may walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show interest in strangers, without being over exuberant, shy or resentful. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not strain on the leash.

6. Sit and Down on Command/Staying in Place
The dog will respond to the handler’s command to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to make the dog sit or down. The dog must remain in place on the stay command while the handler walks forward approximately 20 feet.

7. Coming When Called
The dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk approximately 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement. The evaluator may provide a distraction.

8. Reaction to Another Dog
The dog can behave politely around other dogs. When two handlers and dogs approach each other from a distance, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, the dogs should show no more than a casual interest in each other.

9. Reactions to Distractions
The dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations such as the dropping or a large object, someone running by, etc. The dog may express interests, but should not panic, try to run away or show aggression.

Leave It – The dog should be willing to walk past food or items placed on the floor when instructed by the handler.

Acclimation to Infirmities – The dog should be confident when exposed to people walking with an uneven gait, shuffling, breathing heavily, coughing, wheezing or displaying other distractions.

10. Supervised Separation
The dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain good manners until the handler returns. The handler will be out of site for three minutes. The dog should not whine or bark or show any signs of agitation or nervousness.

11. Say Hello
The dog should be willing to visit a person, including a child for petting. Small dogs may be placed on a person’s lap.


Dogs may also demonstrate tricks
Dogs should wear a buckle collar for testing
Greyhounds are not required to sit for testing.

If you have questions or would like more information about Hospice of Citrus and the Nature Coast PUPs Program, please contact, Volunteer Services at 352-527-2020 or 866.642.0962.