What kind of dog makes a St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog?
A dog who has a sound temperament, a friendly disposition, is in good physical condition with vet-certified, up-to-date inoculations, and proper grooming.
By Anne Ramsoomair, Therapy Dog Coordinator
Dogs are non-judgmental
They are undeterred by human frailties. Dogs will be accepting of those with physical or mental illness, or those presenting with confusion or tears. They lower blood pressure, calm the distressed, distract a pain-ridden patient, and comfort the lonely and shut-in by just allowing ears to be scratched. You never lose the love of animals.
All potential Therapy Dogs must have their temperament tested by St. John Ambulance accredited Evaluators, as all Therapy Dog Teams are insured against accidental injury.
Prerequisites: The dog's temperament is most important.
- Accepting of a friendly stranger
- Sitting calmly for petting
- Walking on a loose leash
- Walking through a crowd (including wheelchairs)
- Sitting on command
- Reacting well to another dog or to distractions (noise, joggers)
- Accepting small treat from fingers.
What do Therapy Dogs do?
You will have the opportunity to participate in stress relief visits to universities and high schools, and fundraisers or community awareness events. Child-tested dogs go into schools for special programs such as “Paws 4 Stories” which help young children learn to read, and for children with special needs. All volunteers are required to attain a minimum of 60 volunteer hours per year.
John W. Thompson
How to Become a Therapy Dog Volunteer
- Must be 18 years of age or older
- Own your own dog who must be at least one year old and owned by you for at least 6 months
Attend a 2-hour Orientation Meeting. You will be given all the information you will require to make a decision about joining the program. At this time you will be given the date of your and your dog's assessment/ evaluation.
Attend a 2- hour Evaluation with your dog. Your dog's temperament as well as how you work together as a team will be tested in scenarios similar to visiting a nursing home.
Once you have been successful, you attend an interview to determine the right placement. Then you are paired with a group leader to begin mentored visits with your dog for one hour, once a week. The smiles of joy your four-legged companion generates will keep you visiting.
Apply to be a Volunteer Therapy Dog Team
If you feel that this is something you would like to become involved in with your dog, please visit www.sja.ca and click on Therapy Dogs under Community Services or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our list.
We will send you further information for the next Orientation, either in the spring or fall each year.
If you and your dog are successfully evaluated, you will be joining a group of dedicated volunteers, committed to giving back to our community, and your experience will be a rewarding one.
John W. Thompson
Call 519-579-6285 for more information
The K-W Therapy Dog Program has been in existence in the K-W area since 1996 and has over 60 active members, bringing comfort, joy and companionship to more than 40 retirement residences, long-term care facilities, universities and schools.