Airport Therapy Dog Programs

Aug 8, 2019 | Pet Health, Pets

​It’s been a minute since I posted about Jake and Maggie passing their Canine Good Citizenship training (here and here) all because I wanted them to participate in the PitPaws program at the Pittsburgh International Airport.  I want them both to become Therapy Dogs and am excited about taking them into schools to meet with children as well as volunteering at other establishments.  When I called Alise, PitPaws Organizer, she explained in detail the length of which I would have to go in order to become a team member and it is pretty extensive.  But after listening to her, I agree because you cannot always be sure that your dog will be comfortable in an airport setting.  
My sister has a severe anxiety to flying.  This got me thinking about how I could help her and others who have a fear of flying and it looks like Jake and Maggie are going to go through more training in order to become a therapy dog.  I will first have to enroll Jake and Maggie into classes and get them certified through Therapy Dog International or Alliance of Therapy Dogs.  PitPaws requires all therapy dogs to have at least 6 months volunteer experience in other venues and then participate in a qualification test in order to see if they do well with passengers, airport noise, etc.  I found a program at Misty Pines Dog Park in Sewickly, PA (about 40 minutes from us) that will get them certified through the Therapy Dog International program.  And of course, we have to have all updated shots, vaccinations, records and be insured.  I will undergo a security and background check and all three of us will be fully vetted before entering the PitPaws program.

I did some research on what airports have therapy dog programs and found several.  If you have a fear of flying, check out these cities for their airport therapy dog programs.  To help alleviate the stress of travel, there’s an innovative trend taking off in North American airports: therapy dog programs. Studies show petting a dog can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety, so registered therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers circulate in waiting areas in case anyone wants to pet a dog.  So if you’re an animal lover, stressed or just dog tired, here are a few airports where you can find canine comfort while you wait for your flight.

  • Los Angeles International Airprot (LAX) – Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP)
  • Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) – FLL AmbassaDogs
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) – Paws For Love
  • Edmonton International Airport (EIA) – Pet Therapy at EIA
  • Sacramento International Airport (SAC) – Boarding Area Relaxation Corp (BARC)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN) – Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS)
  • San Antonio International Airport (SAT) – Pups & Planes
  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR) – The Less Airport Stress Initiative (LASI)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) – MSP Animal Ambassadors
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – Wag Brigade
  • Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) – Paws 4 Passengers
  • Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) – Gentle Fur in Action (GFIA)


What is the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog?  

There is a big difference between therapy dogs and service dogs, and they shouldn’t be confused. Therapy dogs in airports are there to be loved and petted. Service dogs, however, are there for a job. They are there to specifically to help their owners with a disability. They cannot be pet or played with by other humans or else they might get distracted and put their owner at risk.

Therapy dogs don’t have special rights, but service dogs do. Therefore, therapy dogs are only allowed into airports once the airport itself starts a therapy dog program.

Both pups have their own strengths and weaknesses so we will see if they love the airport environment or not.  I would never force them if they got sick or nervous.  We have taken them to Lowes several times, outdoor dining at restaurants (see here) and they did well at both places so that is a good sign!!

I hope you enjoyed this post!  Don’t forget to comment or share with a friend :-). 

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