OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center

Rockford, Illinois

Paws for Healing Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy uses highly trained animals and handlers to help patients achieve specific physical, social, cognitive and emotional goals. Specially trained therapy dogs and their owners will, on request, visit the hospital to bring comfort to patients; help reduce a patients' stress, anxiety, pain and blood pressure; and increase patient social interaction and communication. The OSF Saint Anthony program is modeled after the successful Paws 4 Therapy, Inc., program, which has been cited as a Joint Commission "Best Practice."

Interested in becoming part of our Animal-Assisted Therapy Program?

Basic Qualifying Requirements

  • Stella the dog Stella, animal-assisted therapy dog Your dog should consistently perform the following with one command (“dog sit” and the dog puts his rear on the ground)
  • Sit on command
  • Down on command
  • Stay and recall on command
  • Walk loosely on a leash without pulling, even when excited or in a new environment
  • Get along well with other dogs
  • Able to perform commands without treats

Other requirements

  • Your dog should like people
  • Not be overly vocal
  • John Benink and Koda.jpg Koda with a patient Have no food or possession issues
  • Should not have separation anxiety issues
  • Your dog needs to be at least one year of age
  • Handlers must be 18 years or older
  • Dogs must be up to date on all vaccinations
  • Dogs must be free of all skin problems

*Prong collars and gentle leaders are not acceptable

Next Steps 

Please submit an application.

Animal-Assisted Therapy Volunteer Application

Once an application is received, our AAT Coordinator will arrange for a phone interview to explain our program and to learn more about the applicant and his/her dog. If the phone interview shows the applicant and his/her dog are good candidates for the program, they will be invited to attend an initial audition at OSF. Here, the applicant and his/her dog will work with a professional trainer to demonstrate obedience behavior in a simulated hospital setting. Then, if invited to continue, the applicant and his/her dog will attend a weekend training session to learn hospital procedures for visiting patient rooms and visitor areas. For final training, the new AAT team will complete mentored visits with an experienced dog handler. 

Please contact us with any questions at (815) 395-5064