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therapy dogs

Therapy Dogs

Because of their unique ability to reach out and love unconditionally, therapy dogs can lift moods and relieve anxiety, fear and loneliness. Just a simple touch can go a long way in restoring health.

How It Works

Volunteer handlers bring their registered therapy dogs for visits to patient rooms, waiting rooms and rehabilitation sites at various Altru locations. Patient visits usually last 10 to 15 minutes. Patients are invited to pet the dog and ask the handler questions.

Therapy dog visits are not only beneficial to patients. They can help reduce stress and provide comfort to families and visitors.

Meet Brita


Black Giant Schnauzer Brita is a Giant Schnauzer who loves to do therapy visits throughout Altru Health System. She frequently visits the cancer center, pediatric unit, waiting rooms, cardiac unit, ICU, surgery recovery, rehabilitation, the emergency room and many other departments. She's multi-lingual, and keeps expanding her American Sign Language skills. Patients and visitors who communicate through American Sign Language have greatly enjoyed interacting with her. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a patient or family member make a request for a pet therapy visit?

Request a pet therapy visit through your provider or the nursing staff in your department. Pending approval by your department, the request will be sent to the therapy dog team. The therapy dog team will make every effort to fill special requests for visits.

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

Service dogs are working dogs. They do not want to be touched because they have a job to do. Conversely, therapy dogs love to be stroked and snuggled. Companion dogs will assist and provide companionship to individuals.

Are the therapy dogs residents of Altru?

No. All dogs in the Altru therapy dog program are the personal pets of their volunteer handlers.

My dog is really nice. Can I bring him/her in to visit?

Certified therapy dogs are not your average family pet. They go through extensive training to become gentle-natured in all circumstances. Beyond therapy or service dogs, we do not allow outside pets.

I’m scared of dogs. What if I don’t want to be around a therapy dog?

Therapy dogs sense who does and doesn’t like them. They understand the human vibe, and know who to approach and who not to approach. Therapy dogs will only visit patient rooms per the patient’s consent. Additionally, therapy dogs are always with their handler.

I’m allergic to dogs. Will the therapy dog make me sick?

The dander of therapy dogs is well controlled. The risk is very minimal.

What about safety and infection control?

Altru’s therapy dogs are screened for appropriate behavior. They have been evaluated and trained to be therapy dogs. They are required to be clean and vaccinated.

How do we become a Therapy Dog Team at Altru?

All Altru therapy dog teams have been evaluated, and hold membership in a pet therapy organization, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Contact Volunteer Services at 701.780.5125 for more information.


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