Therapy Dogs In Funeral Homes

An Up & Coming Trend

Grieving the loss of a loved one and planning their funeral cause a lot of stress. Therapy dogs offer a unique comfort to grieving families. These highly-trained dogs can help families as they walk through the challenging days following a loved one’s death.

The following guide will explore this up and coming trend. You’ll learn about what therapy dogs are, how they’re trained, and what role they play in funeral homes. We’ve also included information to help you find available therapy dogs in your area. These dogs are trained and ready to offer help to families in need.

What Is A Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs are trained dogs that volunteer with their owners in a variety of settings. These dogs can be seen in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and even funeral homes. These social and friendly dogs are trained to offer comfort to people facing difficult situations.


Although therapy dogs go through extensive training, they do not have the same access and protections as service dogs. Service dogs are trained to stay with their person and complete tasks to ease disabilities. Therapy dogs, however, are trained to offer emotional support to people beside their handlers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers protections that allow individuals to take their service animals to stores, restaurants, hotels, and airlines.

Although therapy dogs are trained, they are not afforded this protection. Instead, individual establishments must give them permission to enter and serve.


There are a variety of different kinds of therapy dogs. Some offer support during physical therapy or visit residents living in a nursing home. Therapeutic visitation dogs are dogs that offer comfort and joy to people in a specific setting.

In a funeral home, therapy dogs bring comfort to grieving friends and relatives of the deceased. They can be with the family throughout funeral planning, viewings, and the funeral itself. Each funeral home decides whether or not to allow therapy dogs in their facilities.

How Therapy Dogs Are Selected & Trained

Not all dogs are suitable for work as therapy dogs. For a dog to be considered for therapy dog certification, they must have a good disposition and no behavioral problems. With extensive training, they are prepared to work in a variety of situations.


The dog’s disposition is a major determining factor for therapy dog training. A good therapy dog will be quiet and have a calm demeanor. It’s important that the dog is able to work well with people of all ages, including small children.

Therapy dogs must be comfortable with strangers approaching and petting them. Because their job requires them to be around lots of different people, they must be comfortable around strangers. A calm, social dog is ideal for therapy dog training.


The dog’s temperament is usually a good indication of how a particular dog will react in new situations. If the dog’s core temperament isn’t good, they cannot be a therapy dog. No amount of training can overcome a dog’s core temperament.

The American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) provides testing to gauge whether your dog’s temperament makes it suitable for therapy dog training. This test and professional consultation can help you select the right dog for therapy training.


Therapy dogs should not bite. It’s important to take note of whether a dog can control its use of teeth while playing with people or other animals. Bit inhibition controls whether a dog bites or not in certain situations. While bite inhibition can be taught, some amount of bite inhibition is innate in some dogs’ temperaments.

It’s also important for therapy dogs to be quiet. While some amount of vocalization is okay, too much noise may increase anxiety in the humans the dog is supposed to help. Very vocal puppies may not be suitable for training as therapy dogs.


Therapy dogs should have good social skills. If they’re too timid, they may not be able to approach strangers to provide comfort. Therapy dogs should be able to interact well with others. They should never be wary of strangers, since interacting with strangers will be their core job as therapy dogs.

Even if a dog isn’t wary of strangers, they may not have the sociability and confidence needed to perform tasks as a therapy dog. An outgoing, confident personality is important for therapy dogs.


Having a suitable dog for therapy dog training is only half of the equation. It’s important to carefully consider whether you’re ready to train your dog and act as its handler in therapeutic scenarios.

You should be comfortable in social situations and meeting new people. If you’re training a therapy dog for the first time, you should find an experienced handler to mentor you. They can answer questions and provide guidance as you train your dog.


There are some limitations on who can be a therapy dog handler. Many certifying institutions require handlers to be at least 18 years of age. If a handler is between the ages of 14 and 18, they must have a legal guardian with them when they take their therapy dog for visitation.

Some therapy dog sites require handlers to undergo a background check. This is to ensure the safety of people who interact with the handler and their dog. Because some certifying bodies provide insurance for therapy dogs and work locations, background checks for handlers may sometimes be necessary.


Temperament and health are the most important things to consider when choosing a therapy dog. However, some breeds are especially good for training as therapy dogs. The best breeds for therapy dog training are German shepherds, corgis, French bulldogs, greyhounds, beagles, pugs, golden retrievers, poodles, and border collies.

No matter what breed of dog, it’s important to conduct temperament testing to determine whether or not they’re a suitable candidate for therapy dog training.


Much of the training for a therapy dog can be done between the dog and its handler. Take time to look up the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. Learn about the commands required and use online tutorials to learn how to teach these commands to your dog.

When training a dog, it’s important to use positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment. Under no circumstance should you hit or harm your dog during training. Your dog must be able to follow commands, work off leash, and stay in one place for long periods of time.


Therapy dogs undergo lengthy specialized training. When choosing specialized training, it’s important to find certified programs like the Canine Good Citizen program.

Well-educated instructors will be equipped to help your dog’s training progress as needed. They offer additional help for problem areas. Although you can do much of the training on your own, the help of a specialized training professional can help ensure your dog’s success as a therapy dog.


Whether you train your dog alone or with the help of a program, it’s absolutely essential to get the AKC Canine Good Citizen title. Therapy dogs must be able to complete commands and behave around strangers.

This certification doesn’t allow you to take your dog anywhere, but it is required if you plan to take you dog into certain places. Individual funeral homes often have policies about what certifications are needed to allow your dog’s entry into a funeral home.

A Therapy Dog's Job Within The Funeral Home

Therapy dogs offer comfort and support to individuals in a variety of settings. When available, they provide important care to grieving friends and families at funeral homes. Below are five ways that a therapy dog works within a funeral home.


Dogs are skilled at sensing the emotional needs of humans. They offer unconditional love and attention when they sense emotional distress. This contact can help break the ice and lighten the mood while making arrangements for your loved one.

It opens the door for relatives to share stories, creating more insight to the funeral director planning the service.

Petting a dog can help lower blood pressure and help people who are feeling lonely. When someone has lost a loved one, the support and affection from a dog can help put them at ease. If you’re at ease, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to make plans for your loved one’s funeral. For more information about how to make your loved one’s funeral a celebration of life, check out our guide here.


Viewing your loved one’s body is an immensely stressful part of the mourning process. Therapy dogs can offer comfort and relieve stress. Since they can sense emotional needs, they can step forward to comfort individuals facing significant distress during this difficult time.

Therapy dogs are trained thoroughly to prevent disruptive behavior. They can follow commands to be with or near certain people during the viewing or after the viewing has ended. 


There are lots of options for having a therapy dog present during a loved one’s funeral. They may be in one spot on a leash or gently moving between people before and after the ceremony.

It’s important to communicate options with the family of the deceased before the funeral. They can determine what actions would be most helpful.

It may be good to have the therapy dog and its handler near the door as people enter the building. This can help put people at ease as they enter the funeral home. Funeral homes are often unfamiliar places. Because of the stress and unfamiliar setting, many people find funerals immensely distressing. A therapy dog won’t get rid of all these feelings, but it may help ease tension.


Children are often uncomfortable talking about their feelings with adults. If they’ve lost someone close to them, this can be an extremely confusing time. Therapy dogs offer them someone to sit with and talk to as they process their grief.

Therapy dogs can also offer a distraction to grieving children. Children may find it helpful to hug or pet the therapy dog during the funeral service. The extra support can help them manage settings they find confusing or even boring.


Support groups offer continued care for those grieving the loss of loved ones. Therapy dogs can offer extra support to grievers at these groups. Their presence can break the ice and help unconnected mourners share about their deceased loved ones.

Sometimes it’s hard to talk about grief. Having something to talk about like the dog in the room can help people start talking. Scientific research shows that petting a dog can decrease tension and create a hormonal response that raises serotonin levels. This hormonal response can help fight depression.

The presence of a therapy dog can also be helpful if you’re grieving the loss of a pet. You can find our guide on supporting your senior through the loss of a pet here. Additionally, pet photo engraved jewelry and pet cremation jewelry can be of great assistance to families and seniors and the jewelry can even be a 'gift' from their new service animal.

6 Scientific Facts About The Benefits Dogs Provide Humans

Therapy dogs provide benefits to humans beyond simple comfort and distraction. Scientific research has shown researchers about the multiple benefits dogs provide humans. While many of these benefits are reaped by pet ownership, the use of pet therapy in funeral homes can also provide many of these benefits.


An Australian study found that people who own dogs are less likely to experience loneliness. While this information largely applies to people who have dogs in their homes, dogs can decrease loneliness when comforting mourners at a funeral home.

Grief can be intensely isolating. Even when surrounded by other people grieving the same loss, people often feel isolated and lonely. Contact with a friendly therapy dog can help fight the loneliness created by grief.


Interactions with dogs can reduce blood pressure. While short-term exposure to dogs at a funeral is unlikely to make a lasting impact on your heart health, it can help you manage your blood pressure during your loved one’s funeral.

Stress can cause elevated blood pressure, which poses a serious risk to medically frail individuals. Even in healthy individuals, increased blood pressure can cause a variety of problems. Although funerals often raise people’s blood pressure, the presence of therapy dogs can help counteract high blood pressure.


A study conducted by scientists at Washington State University discovered that it only takes ten minutes of petting a dog to make a significant impact on your stress levels. When you’re stressed, your body creates cortisol, a stress hormone. In the study, researchers found that participants who spent ten minutes petting dogs had lower levels of this hormone.

Therapy dogs are helpful for reducing stress levels. Although the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult stressors, the presence of a therapy dog can help you manage stress levels.


Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine conducted a study on the impact of dogs on military veterans with PTSD. They discovered that veterans with service dogs showed fewer signs of PTSD than their counterparts. 

Although PTSD is typically associated with military service, evidence indicates that individuals can suffer PTSD surrounding the loss of a loved one. The use of therapy dogs in funeral homes can help individuals facing the crisis of a loved one’s death. For more information about PTSD, check out our complete guide here.


The interaction between and individual and a therapy dog isn’t the only connection made when a therapy dog is present. Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a study and found that people who build strong connections with a pet are more equipped to feel connection with other humans.

Although the interaction between therapy dogs and humans at a funeral home is brief, it can open the door for connection. This connection can give mourners a better sense of the support systems they have in place during the grieving process.


A Japanese study found that gazing into a dog’s eyes can raise the levels of oxytocin in your body. This hormone is often called the “love hormone” because this hormone is increased during positive contact with other people.

Increased levels of oxytocin can provide a boost to your mood and emotions. Although the situation has not changed, your ability to handle complex emotions during grief may be boosted by interactions with a therapy dog.

How Funeral Homes Decide When To Use A Therapy Dog

Pre-planning is one of the most important aspects of using therapy dogs in funeral homes. Although most people love dogs, there are people with allergies or a fear of dogs. These people will not feel comforted by a dog’s presence in the funeral home.

It’s important to carefully plan therapy dog use with the family of the deceased. If your funeral home works with several therapy dogs, you may choose to share information about therapy dogs on your funeral home’s website. Grieving families may indicate their desire to have a therapy dog present, especially if your funeral home advertises the possibility.


Talk to grieving families to find out if they’d like a therapy dog present. When discussing options surrounding funeral arrangements, ask them if and when they’d like a therapy dog present. They can have a therapy dog present during the planning, visitation, or funeral.

Make sure mourners know that they can have the dog present for as many or as few of the events as desired. Some families may want the therapy dog during the planning and viewing, but not during the actual memorial service.

Others may choose to honor their loved one’s love of pets by having a therapy dog present for the celebration of life. The best way to determine a family’s desires is to discuss these options with them.


Grieving families have to hold so much information in their minds that they may not think about dog allergies and other concerns when considering a therapy dog for the funeral. If they want to have a therapy dog present at the funeral, the funeral director should ask them if any guests have allergies or a fear of dogs.

While hypoallergenic dogs exist, it’s important to be aware of any guest concerns about a therapy dog’s presence. In some cases, a family member’s allergy may determine whether the family wants a therapy dog present or not.


Take time to discuss what the family expects from a therapy dog at the funeral. Help them decide whether they want the dog in a particular area or if they want it to be free to roam between mourners during the service.

This may also be a good time to discuss specific people who may be helped by contact with a therapy dog during the service. Some families may want the therapy dog to stay near their children for the duration of the funeral. Others may instruct the dog’s handler to keep the dog near an aging loved one.


You should always post a sign to notify guests that a therapy dog will be present at the family’s request. It may be helpful to post a picture of the therapy dog on the sign so people are familiar with what the therapy dog looks like.

If information about the funeral service is provided online, information about therapy dogs and their purpose may also be included. This can help mourners understand why the dog is there and what they’re doing.

Announcing plans to have a therapy dog present can also give mourners time to contact the funeral home with concerns about allergies.


The therapy dog’s handler is often a volunteer who will be in charge of the dog’s care throughout the funeral. This handler will ensure the dog goes where needed.

The dog’s handler should know about the funeral plan and what role the therapy dog will play in the funeral. They will also ensure that the dog gets breaks and time to relieve itself throughout the proceedings.

Resources For Finding A Therapy Dog For A Funeral Home

Whether you’re a funeral home looking for a therapy dog to regularly visit or a family planning a loved one’s funeral, it’s important to know where to look for a therapy dog. The following three resources will help you find vetted and certified therapy dogs to offer support during an upcoming funeral.

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs is an online registry of certified therapy dogs. They provide testing, certification, registration, support, and even insurance to handlers and clients. Their goal is to provide information on available therapy dogs and their handlers.

All therapy dog organizations on the AKC Recognized Therapy Dog Organizations list must be certified with the AKC Therapy Dog title. This list provides info about organizations across the country. You can find available therapy dogs in your area to help with your upcoming funeral.

Therapy Dogs International offers specialized therapy dogs. They have a section of their site dedicated to dogs that specifically work with funeral homes.

4 Things To Consider When Choosing A Therapy Dog For A Funeral Home

Although all certified therapy dogs will be trained and have good social skills, it’s important to consider each candidate carefully before bringing a therapy dog into your funeral home. If you plan to build a lasting relationship with a therapy dog and its handler, it’s important to take time to properly screen options.

Below are four things you should consider when choosing a therapy dog for a funeral home. This information can help you weed out any under-trained or unsuitable therapy dog candidates.


Therapy dogs should not show outward signs of stress. Panting, pacing, excessive shedding, and shivering are all bad for therapy dogs working in funeral homes. If the dog looks stressed, it is likely to increase the anxiety of guests instead of decreasing it.

While an anxious dog may still be able to provide comfort, a stressed-looking dog may become a distraction. The right therapy dog will offer comfort and support without causing any problems during the funeral.


Therapy dogs are trained to tolerate extended petting and long periods of standing still. However, therapy dogs for funeral homes should be able to tolerate even more of these things.

They should be comfortable spending a significant amount of time with one person if needed. If a grieving person needs extra comfort and support, the dog should not be easily distracted by other people.

While a more exuberant therapy dog may be great for a classroom of elementary school students, a calm and mellow therapy dog is more suitable for work in a funeral home.


The therapy dog should have a consoling posture. They should not run around seeking attention. Instead, they should offer comfort with a consoling posture. They may place their head on a mourning person’s lap or knee. A good therapy dog will also sit still to be petted by mourners.

Although an upbeat and happy dog can offer comfort and distraction, a funeral home’s therapy dog should have a calming presence. They should not only have a good temperament overall, but a temperament ideal for socializing with grieving individuals.


A therapy dog for a funeral home should be able to work on-leash or off-leash as needed. The grieving family may have preferences about how the therapy dog is used during a funeral service. Because of differing desires, it’s important that the therapy dog is versatile and trained to work either on-leash or off-leash.

This versatility is important, especially since demands may differ between groups of people. It’s important for a therapy dog to be able to work in a variety of different conditions.

Therapy Dogs At A Funeral Frequently Asked Questions

How do therapy dogs offer comfort at funeral services?

Therapy dogs offer comfort by providing a distraction to mourning families. Scientific research has also shown that petting a dog can help lower blood pressure and increase serotonin. This hormonal support is helpful for people grieving the loss of a loved one.

Therapy dogs are particularly helpful for grieving children. They offer emotional support and distraction for children struggling to process the confusing emotions surrounding the loss of a loved one.

What happens if someone coming to the funeral is allergic to dogs? Can we still have the therapy dog present?

Whether or not you can have a therapy dog present when someone has an allergy largely depends on the severity of that person’s allergy. The therapy dog’s presence should always be disclosed with a sign on the door.

If you know about someone with an allergy to dogs, you should consult them about a therapy dog’s inclusion in the funeral plans. Although some dogs are considered hypoallergenic, people with severe dog allergies may still have concerns about a dog’s presence at the funeral.

How old does a dog have to be to go through the dog therapy program?

Training for a therapy dog typically begins when the dog is at least one year old. By this time, their overall disposition and attitude should be clear to their handlers. They are still young enough to learn, but old enough to exhibit necessary behaviors.

Can I bring my own therapy dog to the funeral home with me?

Whether or not you can take your own therapy dog to the funeral home is up to each individual funeral home. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not grant rights to therapy dogs, so you cannot take your therapy dog anywhere without permission from the location.

If you want to bring your own therapy dog to the funeral home with you, you should contact your funeral director. He or she should be able to provide the necessary information.

How can I find a therapy dog to come to the funeral home with me?

If your funeral home doesn’t have a relationship with any therapy dogs and their handlers, you can ask them if they’re willing to allow you to find a therapy dog to be present at the funeral. Some funeral homes may not be familiar with the benefits of therapy dogs, so there is a chance your request will be denied.

If your funeral home allows you to find your own therapy dog, find nearby therapy dogs online through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the AKC Recognized Therapy Dog Organizations list, and Therapy Dogs International.

Is there a certain breed that makes a better therapy dog for a funeral home?

The most important factor in determining a dog’s success as a therapy dog is its temperament. However, some breeds are more likely to make great therapy dogs. Ideal breeds include German shepherds, corgis, French bulldogs, greyhounds, beagles, pugs, golden retrievers, poodles, and border collies.

Any breed of dog can be a therapy dog as long as it has the right temperament. It’s important to undergo temperament testing with your dog to determine whether it makes a good candidate for therapy dog training.

What are the requirements to have my dog certified as a therapy dog?

Certified therapy dogs must go through extensive training in order to be certified. They must be able to follow a certain set of commands and pass a temperament test. There must be no history of biting or aggression.

Continued certification depends on your dog’s ability to perform necessary tasks. Therapy dogs must be up-to-date on all vaccinations. They must also be in good health, since their work is often physically demanding.

What’s the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog?

There are a few differences between therapy dogs and service dogs. Service dogs are trained to assist one person in tasks they cannot perform because of a physical disability. Therapy dogs are trained by their handler to enter social situations where they provide comfort to a variety of people.

Service dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means service dogs can enter stores, restaurants, hotels, airlines, and other businesses. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, must be granted permission to enter by each individual business. They may enter funeral homes with permission.

Can a cat be used as a therapy animal at a funeral home?

A cat cannot be trained as a therapy animal. Although cats can be emotional support animals and offer many benefits to grieving families, they cannot be certified as therapy animals. It is incredibly difficult to train a cat.

In some cases, a funeral home may allow a person to bring their cat to the funeral home. However, it’s important to ask your funeral director in advance. Many funeral homes will not allow pets that aren’t certified as therapy or service animals.

Soothing Hearts One Paw At A Time

Therapy dogs offer significant support to family and friends during the grieving process. These highly-trained dogs are capable of spending long periods of time sitting still or socializing with grieving individuals.

Funeral homes can provide therapy dog care as a vital option for grieving families and, in turn, bring additional comfort to the family and those coming to pay their respects.

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December 18, 2021 by Frances Kay