Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you refer to CAAWLS animals as 'wellness animals' instead of 'therapy animals'?

We are trying our best to be consistent with animal assisted intervention standards. Because most animals in our placements are not working alongside a psychologist doing therapy in a professional setting, we use the term 'wellness animal'. Although we of course recognize the therapeutic benefit of using animals in the settings we are in, the most correct term to use for what our organization does is 'wellness animal'. You can read more about this in the section called "Definitions and Terms". 

 

What kinds of animals do you certify?

We only certify dogs and cats, as we do not currently have the ability to create a comprehensive certification test for other species of animals.
 

What do I need to do to become certified?

  1. Read our website section Volunteering with your Pet.
  2. Contact our coordinator, who will assist you in booking an obedience and temperament test.
  3. Attend an evaluation.
  4. Get a veterinary health check for your animal, and a criminal record, vulnerable sector and child intervention check for yourself.
  5. Attend an orientation where you will learn all about CAAWLS, Animal Assisted Interventions and what will be expected of you when volunteering.
     

Does CAAWLS train my dog or cat to become a wellness animal?

 No. Wellness animals generally either have what it takes to be a wellness animal or they don't. Our trainers look for animals that are calm and confident in new situations, that enjoy the attention of strangers, and that enjoy this type of work. Although we don't teach your dog to be a wellness animal, there is a prep course you can take to help figure out if your animal has what it takes to be a CAAWLS animal. The course is offered by our Dogspaw trainers and is very closely aligned with our requirements so at the end of the course you'll have a very good idea if your animal will pass our evaluation. You even go through a mock CAAWLS evaluation at the end of the course. See course description below.

Manners Refined and Wellness Dog Prep Class is gearing up for a daytime run, starting July 10 - 31 at 2:00. This is a 4 week class suited to dog friendly dogs who know Sit, Down and Stay as their basics. We will concentrate on polishing those skills and the sights and sounds of the environment (wheel chairs, walkers, cats, umbrellas, etc.) to prepare you and your dog for the CAAWLS Wellnes Dog Evaluation. Call 780 471 2275 to register and save your place. Spots are limited.

What kind of a time commitment is required?

We would like to see a minimum of 10 visits per year, but are always happy if your schedule allows more. We are specifically looking for volunteers with weekday availability, but we do have occasional placements for animals during evenings and weekends.
 

Do I have to leave my animal in someone else’s care?

No! You will be with your animal at all times when you are volunteering.
 

My animal does not have a ‘sit and cuddle’ kind of personality. Can they still be a wellness animal?

YES! Many of our volunteer dogs play frisbee and fetch, or perform agility skills during their animal assisted intervention sessions. Active animals can also be great additions to clients who may be reluctant to get out of bed or need motivation to move. Sometimes, there is nothing better than an energetic companion!
 

I don’t have a pet. can I still volunteer?

Yes, absolutely!  We are always in need of volunteers to help us at certain events, and every month with our certifications of new animals. 
 

I think my pet would be a great Wellness animal but I am not sure they will pass the test. what can I do?

We suggest working with a certified trainer on getting your animal comfortable in a wellness setting. The trainers who conduct the testing for CAAWLS run a 'therapy dog prep class' every few months which we highly recommend to help get your dog's obedience and comfort level up to our test standards. Please contact coordinator@caawls.org or visit www.dogspaw.ca to find out more.
 

There’s no way my pet is going to pass the obedience or temperament test. can I still volunteer?

Yes you can!  Just without your pet.  Unfortunately uncertified animals will not be permitted to attend CAAWLS events, but humans can become “certified” as volunteers without an animal.  We are always in need of volunteers to help us at events and with certifications.