Golden Retrievers as Therapy Dogs (And How To Train Yours)

Imagine walking into a room and being greeted by a wagging tail, bright eyes, and an overwhelming sense of warmth. That’s the magic of therapy dogs. These amazing animals play a crucial role in providing comfort, support, and joy to those in need. 

Among the many breeds suited for this noble task, Golden Retrievers stand out as ideal therapy dogs. 

Let’s dive into why these friendly, intelligent, and gentle dogs are perfect companions for therapy work.

man is holding a golden retriever therapy dog

Characteristics of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They have a natural ability to connect with people, making them perfect for providing emotional support. 

Their warm and gentle disposition helps them create an instant bond with those they interact with, whether it’s a child, an elderly person, or someone going through a tough time.

One of the standout traits of Golden Retrievers is their intelligence

They are quick learners and can be trained to perform a variety of tasks. This makes them excellent therapy dogs, as they can be taught to respond to specific needs and situations. 

Their eagerness to please their handlers also means they are highly motivated during training sessions, making the learning process smoother and more enjoyable.

Golden Retrievers have a gentle temperament, which is crucial for therapy work. They are patient and calm, even in stressful environments. 

Their empathetic nature allows them to sense when someone is upset or anxious, and they instinctively provide comfort. This natural empathy is a key factor in their effectiveness as therapy dogs.

Benefits of Therapy Dogs

Interacting with a therapy dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, and even help release positive hormones like oxytocin. 

Just a few minutes of petting a Golden Retriever can have a calming effect, helping to alleviate physical symptoms of stress and improve overall well-being.

The mental health benefits of therapy dogs are profound. They provide comfort and companionship, which can reduce feelings of loneliness and depression

Therapy dogs also offer a sense of purpose and routine, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with mental health conditions. 

Their presence can increase mental stimulation and provide a happy distraction from daily challenges.

Training a Golden Retriever as a Therapy Dog

Before embarking on the journey of training a Golden Retriever as a therapy dog, there are a few basic prerequisites to consider. 

The dog should be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of therapy work, typically around one to two years old. 

They should also have a solid foundation in obedience and leash manners to ensure they can be controlled in various situations.

Golden Retrievers are energetic dogs that require regular exercise. Ensuring they get enough physical activity is crucial for managing their energy levels and keeping them calm during therapy sessions. 

Daily walks, playtime, and mental stimulation are all important components of their exercise routine.

Training Methods

Work Toy Method

The Work Toy Method involves using a specific toy to harness the dog’s natural retrieval instincts. By associating the toy with positive reinforcement, the dog learns to focus and respond to commands. 

This method is particularly effective for Golden Retrievers, given their love for retrieving and playing with toys.

Tied to You Method

The Tied to You Method involves keeping the dog close to you, gradually increasing the level of distractions they are exposed to. 

This helps the dog learn to stay focused on their handler, even in busy environments. It’s a great way to build a strong bond and improve the dog’s ability to stay calm and attentive.

Model Dog Method

The Model Dog Method uses a calm, well-behaved therapy dog as an example for the trainee dog. 

By observing and interacting with the model dog, the Golden Retriever learns appropriate behavior and responses. This method leverages the natural tendency of dogs to learn through imitation and social interaction.

Certification Process

To become a certified therapy dog, a Golden Retriever must possess certain traits such as a stable temperament, confidence, and excellent control. 

These traits ensure the dog can handle the various situations they may encounter during therapy work.

It is recommended that therapy dogs undergo basic obedience training and pass the Canine Good Citizen test. This test assesses the dog’s behavior in a variety of scenarios, ensuring they are well-behaved and responsive.

Organizations like Therapy Dogs International provide certification for therapy dogs. 

They offer guidelines, training resources, and certification tests to ensure the dogs meet the necessary standards for therapy work.


Volunteering Opportunities for Therapy Dogs


In schools, therapy dogs can help students during stressful times, such as exams or personal challenges. Their presence can provide a calming effect, helping students feel more at ease and focused.

Nursing Homes

In nursing homes, therapy dogs offer companionship and a sense of purpose to residents. Interacting with a Golden Retriever can brighten a resident’s day, reduce feelings of loneliness, and improve their overall quality of life.


Hospitals can be stressful environments, but therapy dogs help reduce stress and anxiety for patients and staff alike. The calming presence of a Golden Retriever can lower blood pressure and bring a sense of comfort and peace.

Libraries and Disaster Areas

Therapy dogs also provide support in libraries and disaster areas. In libraries, they can help children improve their reading skills by providing a non-judgmental audience. 

In disaster areas, they offer comfort and emotional support to those affected by traumatic events.

The Human-Animal Bond

The bond between humans and animals is powerful and healing. Therapy dogs like Golden Retrievers exemplify this special connection. Their ability to provide comfort, love, and support highlights the profound impact animals can have on our well-being. 

This unique bond fosters a sense of trust and mutual understanding, creating a healing environment for those in need.


Therapy dogs play an essential role in spreading love and happiness. Golden Retrievers, with their friendly demeanor, intelligence, and gentle nature, are exceptional dog therapists. 

By training and volunteering with therapy dogs, we can make a significant difference in the lives of many. 

If you have a Golden Retriever, consider the rewarding experience of therapy work and the joy it brings to both the dog and the people they help.

Frequently Asked Questions About Golden Retriever Therapy Dogs

Do Golden Retrievers Help with Anxiety?

Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly and affectionate nature, which makes them fantastic companions for those struggling with anxiety. Their calm demeanor and unwavering loyalty can provide a comforting presence, helping to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Is a Golden Retriever a Calm Dog?

Golden Retrievers are generally calm and gentle dogs, especially when properly trained and socialized. They are patient and tolerant, making them ideal pets for families and individuals alike. Their calmness is one of the reasons they excel as therapy and emotional support animals.

Can Golden Retrievers Sense Emotions?

Golden Retrievers have an incredible ability to sense human emotions. They can often tell when their owners are feeling sad, anxious, or stressed and will respond with comforting behaviors. This empathetic nature is part of what makes them such wonderful companions.

Can a Golden Retriever Be an Emotional Support Dog?

Golden Retrievers make excellent emotional support dogs due to their friendly, loyal, and intuitive nature. They provide unconditional love and can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other emotional challenges.

With proper training, they can offer the support and companionship needed to improve their owner’s quality of life.

Galen has been connecting quality Golden Retriever breeders with loving families since 2012 and is the founder of My Golden Retriever Puppies. He and his wife have four children and love spending time together, traveling (lived oversees for 4 years), enjoying the outdoors and connecting Golden families.