Mental health and education professionals are thoroughly trained to work with human clients, and volunteers sometimes receive a brief orientation to the client population they’ll work with. To practice ethically and humanely, however, both professionals who integrate dogs into their practice also need equivalent information about their canine partners and experience working with dogs. The canine-assisted intervention specialist (CAIS) certificate provides the knowledge and experience you need to ensure a therapy dog’s welfare and well-being in professional settings.

You’ll examine your own preferences and biases about dogs as the program delves deeply into topics such as canine behavior, selection, training and health and wellness. You'll also have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with multiple dogs in partnership with a canine organization of your choice, in your own community. At the end of the program, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the needs of your canine partners, you will have practiced training dogs for specific skills helpful in animal-assisted interventions, and you’ll have increased knowledge of the ethics and standards involved in working effectively and humanely with dogs in animal-assisted interventions.

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Students with therapy dog

An Emphasis on Ethics, Knowledge and Skill

The canine-assisted intervention specialist certificate program provides comprehensive education, training and practical experience with canines so you can ethically incorporate dogs into your professional treatment strategies. We emphasize three areas of competence in working with canines:

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    Ethical practice of animal-assisted interventions requires careful consideration of all choices made regarding our canine partners. We focus on options and best practice related to canine welfare, including sourcing and selection, duration of work, training methods, retirement considerations, advocacy and more.

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    This program emphasizes knowledge related to dogs, including the theoretical foundation of canine learning, meanings of canine behavior, understanding various training methods, training plan development, and canine health and wellness needs.

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    Delivering animal-assisted interventions in an ethical and sustainable way requires skill working with dogs. We focus on skills that include training plan implementation, ability to match training methods with dogs, demonstration of two of the four quadrants of training in practice, and accurate interpretation of dog behavior.


The certificate earns 21 continuing education units documented on a University of Denver transcript.


Enrollment is capped at 15 students per cohort for a high quality learning environment.


In just two years, there have been five countries on three continents represented in this certificate.

Therapy dog with woman

A Program for Working Professionals

Designed for professionals—educators, program directors, volunteer coordinators and more — who are already using canines in their careers, the CAIS certificate provides the canine-specific education, knowledge and skill needed to conduct humane and ethical practice. The program also is beneficial for volunteers with experience in animal-assisted interventions. Although CAIS applies canine information to animal-assisted interventions, it does not include education on intervention planning, the history of the human-animal bond, or other administrative aspects of a well-rounded animal-assisted intervention practice.

The Canine-Assisted Intervention Specialist certificate emphasizes practitioner competence and reflects the American Counseling Association’s Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling Competencies.

Program Format

More than 20 canine and animal-assisted intervention professionals from throughout the U.S. contributed to the curriculum. This competency-based certificate includes three online courses and one weekend laboratory on the University of Denver campus. You’ll progress through the courses in sequence with a peer cohort—just 15 students. You may complete coursework at your pace within specified due dates. The fieldwork with canines component will require you to work in the community, away from the computer. As you move through the program, your instructors will offer guidance, individualized weekly feedback and participate in online discussion forums. To obtain this competency-based certificate, you must demonstrate the competencies needed to ensure a therapy dog’s welfare and well-being.

  • Laboratory

    The program begins with a two-day virtual workshop. The focus is to begin or refine observation skills with canines and humans. Your preferences and biases (both positive and negative) about canines will be challenged and explored for their application to client/student work. This laboratory provides supervised hands-on skill-building and immediate supportive and instructive feedback.

  • Online Courses

    Three courses are delivered online through Canvas. Coursework is rigorous and includes video documentation of live work with dogs, community-based observations, interviews, readings, lectures, quizzes and online discussions. You’ll present your final three-part project to your cohort in the third course; the group will provide peer review of each project, and your instructor will provide in-depth feedback.

  • Fieldwork

    Fieldwork includes observation, training, interviews, taking video of oneself working with dogs, and written documentation of work, which will provide you with practical and realistic experience with dogs of varying ages, types and abilities. You’ll be required to observe and work with multiple different dogs each week outside of an animal-assisted intervention setting. (You must have an official arrangement with a shelter organization or canine program in your community.)

“The best part about my experience was getting to learn from some of the most well-respected and accomplished minds in this field.”

Lauren Kruger, Alumni, Graduate, Canine-Assisted Intervention Specialist Certificate Read More
IHAC CAIS Alumna Kruger

Upcoming Program Dates


2022 Cohort 1

2022 Cohort 2

Orientation Workshop (virtual)

February 24 – 25, 2022

August 25 – 26, 2022

Canines 1 Course (online)

February 28 – April 18, 2022

August 29 – October 17, 2022

Canines 2 Course (online)

May 2 – June 20, 2022

October 31 – December 19, 2022

Canines 3 Culmination Project (online)

July 11 – August 1, 2022

January 9 – 30, 2023



Application Information

Cohorts are filled on a first come, first serve basis. Due to high interest, it is recommended to submit your application early.

Certificate Faculty and Staff

Arielle Giddens

Arielle Giddens

Assistant Director of Professional Programs, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Jen Pearson

Jen Pearson

Adjunct Faculty, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Philip Tedeschi

Philip Tedeschi

Clinical Professor

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Screenshot of CAIS virtual workshop.
Closer Look at the Canine-Assisted Intervention Specialist Certificate

The Canine-Assisted Intervention Specialist (CAIS) Certificate at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) is one of the newest offerings in the IHACPro professional development suite of programs, and it has quickly become very popular! It was created in 2018 but went through numerous revisions in 2020 to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic and public health best practices. Led by Clinical Professor and IHAC Director Emeritus Philip Tedeschi and Adjunct Professor Jen Pearson, this 7-month online program educates professionals who include canine interactions in their work.

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