Interested in becoming a volunteer pet visitor?
The benefits of pet therapy are well-documented and we only need note the joy we experience ourselves from time spent with our dog. Just imagine that same dog-joy shared with others who are lonely, isolated, and in need of a visit from your four-legged friend!
Here is a short list of considerations and a few resources that might be of use. First, ask yourself:
- Do you have time each week to volunteer with your dog?
- Is your dog: well-mannered, people-oriented, gentle in personality, used to going to new places, meeting strangers, comfortable with new sights and sounds…?
- Is there a particular facility where you would like to volunteer?
Since the most common pet visit programs are in long term care, you might contact the care home in your neighbourhood and ask about pet visit volunteer opportunities. If the care home is accepting new volunteer pet visitors they will likely have requisite pet visitor protocols in place in addition to their standard volunteer job description.
If you wish to become a certified therapy dog team, St John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog Program offers dog therapy evaluations around the province from time to time. Check out this YouTube link to learn about the skills needed to successfully complete their evaluation. If it’s dog therapy training you are interested in, an internet search will reveal several organizations in BC that provide a comprehensive education/testing program with the end goal of certification.
For those interested but not quite ready to become volunteer pet visitors, consider preparatory training in basic dog manners and loose leash walking, socialization to new people and places, sights and sounds and more. Here are a few starter resources for training and testing your skills:
- Register in a basic obedience class hosted by a positive, rewards-based trainer. You will have a great time and so will your pup and you will come away with some new skills to bring to your volunteer pet visiting work!
- Check out Leerburg University’s online, self-paced courses:
- “Relationship Games” with Mark Keating and/or From the Rescue to the Home with JJ Belcher A positive, trusting relationship with your dog is where it all starts!
- Test out your skills and challenge you and your dog:
- AKC (American Kennel Club) offers several virtual programs that you can do from home including Virtual Home Manners
- CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) offers a 12 step Canine Good Neighbour program and participant handbook
Remember, the goal in training is first and foremost to develop a positive relationship with your dog!
For more volunteer opportunities visit our Volunteering page.