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Enriching Lives With Unconditional Love...

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly does Hearts & Paws Comfort Dogs do?

We are a group of dog lovers who are committed to sharing the love and comfort of dogs with our community. We visit schools and library programs, as well as other events – places with people who might need a doggy hug or some unconditional love. There is never a charge for our visits.

We are always looking to reach out to the community, so if you know of a place or group that would welcome a visit from well-behaved, loving dogs, please contact us.

In addition, we are dedicated to raising money to directly help our communities on Cape Cod, such as the Family Pantry of Cape Cod. 100% of money raised at our events goes directly to the charity stated. 

We occasionally hold fund-raisers to collect funds to help with our members’ expenses, such as training and exam fees in order to obtain our Canine Good Citizenship certification. We believe strongly that someone shouldn’t feel that they can’t afford to be part of our organization.

We are all volunteers, with no paid staff, so we keep our overhead light with the aim of giving to our community in as many ways as we can.

What are the requirements to volunteer?

Any person willing to help our community is welcome to join us. If you have a dog that you think could be a Comfort Dog, please check our requirements as to whether he/she would be a good candidate.

We do require that every dog that goes out into the community for us has passed the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen exam, but we provide guidance as to how to get this.

Even if your dog isn’t ready or suited to be part of one of our teams, we have fun and valuable roles for you to hold, so please consider volunteering anyway.

Can I volunteer without a dog?

Absolutely! All of our teams consist of a Comfort Dog, a Handler, and a Spotter, who handles any preliminary discussions with the visit coordinator and keeps an eye out for anything that might create a problem for the dog team. We see this as a vital role in our success, so if you don’t have a dog, or your dog isn’t suited to be a Comfort Dog, this is a great way for you to bring joy and comfort to people in our community, and make some wonderful friends in the process! Learn more about the role of the Spotter here.

What's the difference between a therapy dog, a service dog and a comfort dog?

A therapy dog is certified by organizations that test that a dog’s behavior meets stringent standards. They must be under their handler’s control at all times, and be comfortable around medical equipment, noises and other distractions that might occur during visits to nursing homes or hospitals. 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.”

A Comfort Dog in our organization may not have met the same standards of training that a therapy dog has, but has passed the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test, which certifies that the dog is well-trained and behaves well in public situations around strangers and strange dogs. You can read more about the CGC Exam here. All of the dogs we send into the community as Comfort Dogs have passed the CGC.

How can I take the CGC exam?

Your dog will already need to be trained in basic behaviors (sit, down, stay, polite greetings, etc.), and will need to be calm around people and other dogs. You may need to get some basic training before starting the CGC process. If your dog is already highly trained, you may be able to simply take the exam. Otherwise, CGC evaluators offer a class to prepare for the exam. 

Note that we strongly recommend that you choose a trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods. This training is grounded in science and teaches you to work with your dog using respect and kindness. Methods that use punishment and tools such as choke, prong or e-collars (shock) are outdated and can damage your relationship with your dog.

How long is a Comfort Dog visit?

Generally speaking, a Comfort Dog visit lasts about one hour. Depending on the situation, this can be flexible, but we always look to keep our dogs relaxed and stress-free, and therefore we need to limit the time they stay with a group.

What types of groups do you visit?

We visit schools, libraries, senior centers, veterans’ group homes/clubs, shelters, and other service-oriented organizations. We do NOT send teams to private residences, birthday parties or other non-service-oriented venues. Please contact us to see if your organization qualifies.

What areas do you serve?

We currently have dog teams that can be deployed throughout the Upper, Mid and Outer Cape towns.

Do you charge for visits?

No. We never charge to have a Comfort Dog team visit your organization.

Is there a membership fee?

Yes, we have a $75 annual membership fee, which helps with our expenses, as we never charge for our visits. This helps to cover insurance, administrative costs and other expenses, such as fundraising costs. You will receive a shirt, ID and, if you have a dog, a bandana and tote bag for supplies as part of your membership.

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”

We are always looking to reach out to the community, so if you know of a place or group that would benefit from a visit by well-behaved, loving dogs, please contact us.