Pet Therapy and Canine Greeter Programs

Hug a Hound Program logo

"Hug a Hound" and "Howdy Hound" programs

Heads turn and smiles emerge when patients, visitors, and staff see the wagging tail and red bandana of one of our certified pet therapy dogs, ready to go to work. Whether providing TLC at the bedside of a patient, greeting all who enter at one of our entrances, or providing a little comic relief to the staff, our Pet Therapy and Canine Greeter volunteers are just what the doctor ordered!

The pet therapy dogs are Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center volunteers who are specially trained and registered as pet therapy dogs. Our pet therapy dogs are screened based on their attentiveness, good health, affection, and sensitivity to people. Pet therapy dogs and their humans work as a team to visit patients in their rooms in select areas of the hospital. We also have Canine Greeter volunteer teams at the Level 4 entrance of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

How to participate

  1. If you are interested in volunteering you and your dog in the Pet Therapy and Canine Greeter programs, please start by registering with Pet Partners or Therapy Dogs of Vermont.
  2. Once you have registered with Pet Partners or Therapy Dogs of Vermont, apply to be a Volunteer. Volunteer and Guest Services coordinates and schedules all pet therapy dog teams at our facility.

If you have any questions about the Pet Therapy or Canine Greeter programs, please contact Volunteer and Guest Services.

Frequently asked questions

How can I tell if my dog would be a good pet therapy dog?

Volunteer pet therapy dogs are well-trained, obedient, reliable, and friendly. They are socialized to interact with both people and other animals without conflict or anxiety. They demonstrate a warmth of spirit and enthusiasm around people. Many pet therapy dogs have completed dog obedience courses or have successfully completed a Canine Good Citizen evaluation. Pet therapy dogs may be of any breed (purebred) or a mixed-breed "mutt."

What is the difference between pet therapy dogs and service dogs?

Grace, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock pet therapy dog
Grace, a Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center pet therapy dog

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. A service animal is not a pet. (Taken from U.S. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section)

Pet therapy dogs provide love and affection. Research has shown that dogs can help reduce stress, make social connections, invite conversation or provide the profound healing of touch. Volunteer pet therapy dogs do not "provide assistance" for a disability, but instead offer love, affection, and stress relief with their wagging tails and trusting eyes.

For more information