BACKGROUND: St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog teams have been providing comfort and support to individuals they visit for over 15 years in Saskatchewan, and since 1992 starting in Peterborough, Ontario. There are numerous other therapy dog organizations in Canada.
The human and dog volunteer teams visit at a range of places where individuals do not typically have access to a pet, such as hospitals, airports, and university campuses. This is called an animal assisted activity. Extensive vetting and testing is typically involved in becoming a therapy dog team, but limited education is provided to handlers to increase their awareness and skills in areas that would support their visits.
AIM: To help fill this gap, a free, four-hour online course has been designed for therapy dog handlers to:
This course is open to therapy dog handlers as well as anyone wishing to improve inclusive communication with others, the well-being of themselves, and/or better understand their dog’s behaviour. The course modules will be available in June, 2022!
This course was made possible by sponsorship from author Jane Smith, who shared half of the proceeds of the sale of the children’s book Murphy Mondays, funded by a HUG Grant from the Royal University Hospital (RUH) Foundation. Murphy Mondays tells the story of the first St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Team to visit a Emergency Department in Canada. Books are available for purchase at DriverWorks, McNally Robinson, and Indigo/Chapters/Coles.
The PAWSitive Canine Connections team in the Office of One Health and Wellness at the University of Saskatchewan (Ben Carey, Colleen Dell, Maryellen Gibson, Aliya Khalid, Linzi Williamson) designed this online education opportunity in partnership with the Distance Education Unit (Julie Maier) at the University of Saskatchewan and the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program (SK) (Stephanie Peachey, Jane Smith).