Is your dog friendly, gentle, well-mannered and extremely socially motivated? If so, you and your dog may work together to touch the lives of those in need by being a Warm Hearts team!

The Warm Hearts Network is a group of trained volunteers and their dogs who provide Animal Assisted Activities and volunteer visiting teams in the community. Our handler-dog teams are screened, evaluated and then registered to visit healthcare facilities, schools, senior living and activity centers, hospice and other locations to bring comfort and enjoyment to program participants. To participate in the Warm Hearts Network your dog must:

  • Be two years of age or older
  • Have been a part of your family for 6 months or more
  • Display exceptional behavior & social personality 
  • Be extraordinarily tolerant & well behaved in new environments
  • Be able to pass a registration evaluation with you as the handler (Team Testing)

Frequently, the Warm Hearts Network identifies adoptable shelter dogs as potential Warm Hearts team candidates. These dogs have been evaluated through a screening assessment and would be wonderful additions to the program as well as great family dogs. 

 In addition to volunteer visiting teams, we also help prepare professional teams consisting of licensed professionals ( in health care, education and human services) who use dogs in their professions.

For more information on the Warm Hearts Network, or to inquire about becoming a Warm Hearts Team, contact [email protected]. View our calendar of events below.

The Process

Volunteer Visiting Teams

  1. Screening (held three times per year, see calendar below): No Fee
  2. WHN Test Prep Class (optional; for teams that need additional training prior to testing): $100 for 7 weeks
  3. WHN Entry Level Handlers’ Workshop (held three times per year; required for all new teams prior to Team Testing): $15 per handler (for couples, both handlers must attend)
  4. Veterinary Screening
  5. Team Testing (held three times per year, see calendar below): $15 per team (handler+dog team – couples must each pass as handler)
  6. Registration for Volunteer Visiting Teams: $30/team or $50/couple plus $15 for 2 Year ID card
    Registration for Professional Teams is $30 for the initial test.
  7. Renewal for Volunteer Visiting Teams is every two years ($15 test fee, $30 registration).
    Renewal for Professional Teams is each year ($15 test, $20 registration per team per year).

Phase II for Professional Teams (those using their dog to assist with work in professional health care or education setting):
All of the above, followed by:

  1. Contact your state professional licensing board and obtain a copy of your professions standards and scope of practice/governing statutes, and continuing education requirements.
  2. Participate in professional level continuing education/coursework for animal assisted therapy/animal assisted education is one local organization that provides continuing education for licensed professionals.


Screening (No Fee)

Sharing your dog with others can be a fun experience. In order to be successful, you and your dog should both enjoy going new places and meeting new people. A good handler+dog team has excellent communication, both verbal and non-verbal. WHN Teams have basic obedience training and interact with each other and community members in a calm and friendly manner. WHN Teams use humane training and handling techniques, and do not rely on physical force such as pushing the dog’s hips into a sit position, using choke chains, or jerking/popping the leash for compliance.

To qualify for a screening:

  • Dog is at least 2 years old
  • Dog has been part of your family for at least 6 months
  • Dog displays exceptional behavior skills and social personality
  • Dog enjoys interactions with other people
  • Dog is not easily overwhelmed by novel noises, sights, touch, or smells
  • Dog can perform basic obedience skills including sit, come, down, stay, walk on a loose leash, walk by food on the ground without taking it, work calmly in the presence of other dogs, and easily engage with a stranger
  • Dog can work in public wearing only a flat collar and/or a harness (back or front attachment)
  • Dog can remain calm and attentive to the handler in public without the use of a training/choke collar, slip lead, prong collar, head halter (HALTI or similar), e-collar or physical corrections
  • Dog responds quickly and accurately to cues in novel environments and with distractions
  • Handler is attentive to their dog and knows their preferences for populations to visit
  • Handler can engage dog using calm voice and verbal or visual cues for behaviors
  • Handler can predict or respond to their dog’s needs

If your team CAN demonstrate the above skills in familiar and unfamiliar environments with distractions present, select a screening date, contact the screening consultant for that date to make reservations. There is no charge for the screening. If the team does not pass screening, they may be referred for ongoing training, and must be rescreened prior to testing (see schedule for the year).

If you or your dog are NOT quite ready to complete the screening (or you are unsure), and you would like some classes (fee for service) we recommend the following:

  • Animal Humane offers a variety of classes to suit your needs through The Center. For the Warm Hearts Network, we recommend Puppy Preschool and Middle School Manners (for dogs under 1 year), Civilized Canine or 505 Pit Crew, Beyond the Back Yard, and Perfect Pub Pet (please note that this class teaches dogs to behave in public, but your pet only has access into establishments that allow pets. This is not a public access class for service dogs in training). Visit The Center at Animal Humane’s online training calendar to register for a class.
  • WHN Test Prep Class – This is a 7 week basic training class in a group setting. Learn all the basics for Warm Hearts Network or general skills with your new family member. $100 class fee. Location: Animal Humane New Mexico (615 Virginia St. SE). Contact class trainer directly to schedule: [email protected].


For any additional questions, please contact [email protected]

About Our Courses

WHN Test Prep Class – Cost: $100

This course is offered for handlers interested in becoming Warm Hearts Network teams but who need additional practice with basic skills and socialization to novel objects in the environment. This 7 week class will cover all basic behavior skills including sit, down, focus on handler, come, stay, loose leash walking and ignoring distractions. It will also introduce dogs to some of the common distractions they will face during visiting work.

Class is offered before testing, three times a year.

Please note: completing the WHN Test Prep Class is an excellent way to prepare your dog for the WHN Team Test but does not guarantee registration as a WHN Team. Registration is still dependent on successfully passing the WHN Team Test with your dog.

For information on registering, please contact the class trainer directly: [email protected]

WHN Handlers’ Workshop – Cost: $15

Teams that have successfully passed screening must also complete the WHN Handlers’ Workshop prior to testing. Registered WHN Teams are also required to repeat the Handlers’ Workshop every three years.

The Handlers’ Workshop introduces our teams to some of the basic considerations of you and your dog required for successful volunteer visiting. We will review process and protocol for being a WHN Team, facilitating client interactions, dog handling skills and responsibilities, and how to work with your dog to ensure enjoyable visits for your dog, yourself and your clients. We will also review the test one final time.

This class is intended only for human handlers; your dog will remain at home. This is a full day workshop, running from 9 am to 4 pm on a Saturday 1-2 weeks prior to Team Testing.

Once you have passed screening, the WHN volunteers will email your information to both the registrar and to our WHN Handlers’ Workshop instructor. It is your responsibility to contact the class instructor to register for the class at [email protected].

The WHN Handlers Workshop costs $15 per human and may be paid in cash or checks are made out to Warm Hearts Network. Location: Animal Humane New Mexico (615 Virginia St. SE).

For any additional questions, please contact [email protected]


WHN Evaluation
Fee: Visiting Team $10
Professional Teams $15

The team will be guided through a series of activities in which they demonstrate practical application of skills and knowledge that are frequently encountered in a volunteer visiting environment. All activities must receive a passing score for the team to become a REGISTERED team of the WHN. All newly registered Teams receive clearance to visit in a predictable, low activity environment.

For any additional questions, please contact [email protected].


  • Registration for Volunteer Visiting Teams: $30 for 2 years per team; couple $50
  • Registration for Professional Teams: $30 for the initial test.
  • Renewal for Volunteer Visiting Teams is every 2 years ($10 test fee, $30 registration).
  • Renewal for Professional Teams is each year ($15 test, $20 registration per team per year)

Upon successful passing evaluation scores, a team registers as a member of WHN. The team is asked to ensure their team is identified as a member by wearing identification:

  • Photo ID (required – $15 fee)
  • Bandana or Vest (required, purchased by handler)
  • T-Shirts for Humans (optional, purchased by handler)

The team will then complete mentorship sessions and then select an approved location for regular visiting. The volunteer visiting teams must re-test every two years or if there is a change in visiting environment, population, or health of the dog. Professional teams re-test each year and if there is a change in the environment, population, or health of the dog. All handlers must re-take the WHN Handlers’ Workshop every three years.

For any additional questions, please contact [email protected].


After a team successfully passes Team Testing, they will be assigned a mentor to shadow. The new handler will shadow a seasoned Team for a visit to see the process, the policies and procedures in action. If need be, the handler can request numerous visits with a mentor and may ask to bring their dog to shadowing (after the first visit).

For any additional questions, please contact [email protected].

Class Schedule & Training Information 

Date/Time Event
9:00 am - 11:00 am
Team Screening (No charge)
Animal Humane New Mexico, Albuquerque NM
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Team Screening (No charge)
Animal Humane New Mexico, Albuquerque NM
9:00 am - 11:00 am
Warm Hearts Network Handlers' Course ($15)
Animal Humane New Mexico, Albuquerque NM
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Warm Hearts Network / Team Testing
Animal Humane New Mexico, Albuquerque NM