Conversation Starters for Therapy Dog Handlers

by | April 20, 2023 | Blog

Learn conversation starters for Therapy Dog teams

Find ideas for making Therapy Dog visits better for everyone with talking tips for handlers.

Therapy dogs bring comfort and friendship to people in many places like schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. As a therapy dog handler, your job is to make sure both the person and your dog feel happy and relaxed. In this article, I’ll give you ideas for starting conversations in different situations, what to avoid talking about, and how to keep your therapy dog interested during visits.

Talking to Kids at School

When talking to children at school, try these ideas:

  1. Do you have any pets? What animals do you have?
  2. What do you like doing during breaks or after school?
  3. What’s your favorite book or movie? Tell me about it.
  4. What superpower would you choose? Why?
  5. What’s something fun you’ve learned in school lately?

Don’t ask kids about family problems, their grades, accidents, scary things, or their friends’ personal lives.

Talking to Patients in Hospitals

For adult cancer patients in hospitals, try these ideas:

  1. How’s your day? Any good moments?
  2. What hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?
  3. Where would you love to travel? Been to any amazing places?
  4. Any good books, movies, or shows to recommend?
  5. What’s your favorite music or artist? Any special songs?

Don’t talk about their illness, treatment plans, how they got sick, money problems, or death.

Talking to Elderly in Memory Care

When visiting elderly people in memory care, try these ideas:

  1. Share a favorite memory or story.
  2. What was your favorite activity or hobby?
  3. What type of music or song brings back memories?
  4. What family tradition or holiday did you love growing up?
  5. What place is special to you? Tell me about it.

Don’t ask questions that show their memory loss, talk about friends or family who have died, their living situation, medical history, or upsetting topics.

Keep Your Dog Interested

It’s important to make sure your therapy dog is also enjoying the visit. Start a conversation with your dog by asking them to do something fun they know how to do.

For example, if your dog knows “paws up,” ask them to put their paws on a curb or bench before going inside. Once inside, find another item and ask them to do it again.

Be creative and pick something your dog loves to do.


As a therapy dog handler, your goal is to make everyone feel good and relaxed. Use these talking ideas, avoid sensitive topics, and make sure everyone is comfortable. Don’t forget to keep your therapy dog interested by asking them to do a fun trick. You and your therapy dog can make a big difference in people’s lives.

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