Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Volunteer Questions:

Facility Questions:


Question: I have an animal that I think would be perfect for therapy work.  How can I volunteer with National Capital Therapy Dogs?


To visit with NCTD, you and your animal must first qualify as a NCTD Volunteer Team. (See How to Volunteer)

Question: What are the benefits of volunteering with NCTD?


NCTD provides numerous benefits, including:

  • We have already established relationships with facilities in the Baltimore-Washington area as well as Southern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula.  These facilities know about National Capital Therapy Dogs and are comfortable having our animals visit their facilities.
  • We provide constant training via NCTD open floors.  These classes are intended for both new teams as well as experienced teams.  These events, in addition to allowing the animals to socialize, provide a great deal of information beyond the NCTD training.  And most importantly, they're fun!
  • We visit facilities as a group.  This allows teams to meet and learn from each other.  It also tends to provide better visits, since we can send the right team to visit the right people.
  • We have social events to get together just for fun.  The handlers get to share stories, and the dogs get to play and sometimes get to go "wiener bobbing"!
  • We send out the NCTD newsletter, a volunteer roster, and other information to all volunteers on a periodic basis.  This keeps volunteers informed of the latest NCTD information.

Question: Can I volunteer with someone else's animal?


Yes.  The same procedures apply to become a NCTD Volunteer team.  The only additional requirement is a note from the owner giving permission for you to work with the animal.

Question: I have a cat/rabbit/llama/etc. that would be perfect for therapy work.  Can I work with NCTD?


Yes!  Other animals are welcomed in our organization.  We have several places that they may be able to visit... nursing homes and assisted living facilities generally welcome them.  Each hospital facility that we visit may have restrictions (e.g., for cats, front claws removed or indoor cat only).  Please contact us for more information.

Question: When is the next Volunteer Training Class/Volunteer Team Evaluation/NCTD Open Floor?


The NCTD Calendar of Events shows the complete list of NCTD visits, events and meetings.  The top portion of the calendar contains all Volunteer Training Classes, Team Evaluations and NCTD Open Floors.

Question: I don't have much spare time to visit.  If I become an NCTD volunteer, what's expected of me?


The minimum requirements for maintaining an active status in NCTD are:

  1. Maintaining NCTD Volunteer registration.  (Each team is reviewed annually and must renew registration evey three years.)
  2. Attending at least one NCTD open floor or other approved training opportuity per calendar year.
  3. Assuming you visit an NCTD facility with your animal, consistently visiting the facility.  (We visit most facilities 1-2 times per month.)  A typical visit lasts about one hour, although time to get your partner ready, driving time, etc. add to the required time commitment.

Of course, if you have more time, we encourage you to:

  • Attend more open floors (We recommend attending as many as possible.)
  • Visiting additional facilities, as long as you can commit to consistently visiting the facilities.
  • Attending NCTD social events, such as the awards night and the annual picnic.
  • Assist with events, such as team evaluations, NCTD demonstrations, etc.
  • Become involved with the NCTD Board of Directors to help shape the future of NCTD.


Question: Besides visiting, how else can I volunteer with NCTD?


While some volunteers prefer to just visit with their partners, many others also help with the numerous responsibilities of the organization.  Responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating Volunteer training sessions and team evaluations.
  • Corresponding with potential volunteers, facilities, etc.
  • Coordinating with NCTD facilities, including evaluating potential new facilities.
  • Volunteer services, including placing new volunteers and helping current volunteers.
  • Organizing social events, such as the NCTD awards night, the NCTD picnic, and the NCTD holiday party.
  • Handling NCTD public relations, including press releases, organizing NCTD demonstrations, etc.
  • Handling back-office functions (mailings, newsletter, taxes, United Way paperwork)

Question: Is NCTD hiring?


NCTD is 100% volunteer-based.  We have no paid positions.  But if you're willing to volunteer, we would appreciate any help you can offer!

Question: How much does it cost to volunteer with NCTD?


There is no cost to volunteer with NCTD once you become a NCTD Volunteer.  Becoming a NCTD Vlunteer does involve cost however.  The exact cost to become a Volunteer varies depending on the number of handlers in the family, the handlers' ages, the number of animals to be registered, etc.  Typical costs for an adult registering with one animal are:

Description Cost (as of January 2015)
Volunteer Training Course with manual $65
Therapy Dog Training $95
Team Evaluations $20

Additional costs may be required for veterinary checks/shots, additional team evaluations (if the team does not pass the first time), NCTD gear, and NCTD "uniform".

Note that NCTD offers free team evaluations for active NCTD teams.

Question: Is financial assistance available to offset the costs of becoming a NCTD Volunteer?


Yes.  Financial Assistance is available via the "Gandalf Fund".  Individuals requesting assistance are to write a letter to the NCTD Board of Directors for review when submitting training/evaluation forms.

Question: What is the NCTD "uniform"?

Answer (for handler): 

While there is no official NCTD "uniform", we request that you be dressed neatly but comfortably when you visit with your animal.  Slacks or nice jeans with a nice shirt and comfortable shoes are recommended.  NCTD also offers "NCTD gear" at cost as well as clothing with the NCTD logo through Lands End.  Wearing NCTD shirts provides a quick means of identification, plus it gives the group a more professional appearance.

Answer (for animal):

All dogs should wear a green harness or green NCTD vest. 

Question: I work at a facility that may benefit from therapy dog visits.  How can I get NCTD to work with my facility?


Unfortunately, we are only able to add a very small number of facilities each year, primarily as other facilities are dropped. However, if you would like for your facility to be considered, please complete the New Facility Application form and return it to our Director of Facilities specified on the Contact Us page).

Question: What are the requirements for NCTD teams to visit my facility?


The number of new facilities that NCTD can approve each year is limited and based on the mission of the facility, the vision of how therapy dog visits will benefit the facility, and volunteer availability. Many factors are examined as we review a potential facility and determine whether to add it to our list. The following is a summary of some of the considerations that are taken into account:

  • NCTD Team Availability - Are there teams interested in visiting the facility?
    • Does the requested visiting schedule align with our volunteers’ availability?
    • Is the facility located in a convenient area for our volunteers?
    • Is the environment a safe place for the handlers and dogs to visit?
    • Is there adequate parking?
    • Can teams get in/out easily?
    • Is there an area for animals to relieve themselves?
  • Volunteer Requirements – What pre-requisites need to be met a volunteer can visit at the facility. Will there be any out-of-pocket expenses for the volunteer?
  • Type of Population - Is this a type of population that will benefit from Animal Assisted Activities or Animal Assisted Therapy?
  • Staff Supervision – Are facility staff available to escort and be readily accessible when NCTD teams are visiting?
  • Cleanliness - Is the facility reasonably clean?  Are there pills/food on the ground for dogs to pick up?
  • Schedule - Can visits be scheduled at a time when teams can visit?
  • NCTD Team Availability (Are there enough teams interested in visiting the facility to sign NCTD up?)

In general, we will conduct a preliminary over-the-phone survey and may follow up with an on-site survey.  Depending on the outcome of these surveys, and after determining NCTD team availability, we may:

  • Begin visiting immediately
  • Visit for a "trial" period to see how well the visits go.
  • Say "no" initially, but plan to follow up after some period of time.  (This may happen if there are issues with the facility that could be resolved after some time or if a facility is suitable but no teams are available.)

Question: Can I donate money to NCTD?  Is my donation tax-deductible?


Yes and Yes.

We do have fiscal obligations, so contributions are appreciated to help offset our operating expenses.  Donations to NCTD are usually tax-deductible.