Animal-assisted therapy

Dogs make people happy. That's why you'll see tiny Yorkshire Terriers and giant English Mastiffs roaming the halls and lobbies of our hospitals. They’re part of our Animal-Assisted Therapy Program.

How does animal-assisted therapy help patients?

There's science to back us up, but the bottom line is many patients feel better with animal-assisted therapy. A visit from one of our therapy dogs can help make your hospital stay more enjoyable by reducing your anxiety and improving your mood.

How does animal-assisted therapy work?

Our specially trained dogs and their handlers can visit you, at your request, in just about any part of the hospital any day of the week. The visit will usually last about five or 10 minutes.

In order to be eligible, the dogs in our program are trained through the Midwest Canine Academy, and are certified through Therapy Dogs, Inc. Our dogs and their handlers have visited thousands of patients since 2002. Our teams also attend community events and visit schools.

Request a visit from a therapy dog

The program is available in many areas in the hospital, including pediatrics, outpatient oncology, coronary care, orthopedics-neurology, medical-surgical and short stay. If you are a patient in one of these areas, you can request a visit as long as you meet certain criteria and have physician approval.

Visits generally last about five to 10 minutes, and are available seven days a week, at various times. For more information, contact the nurse manager on your floor or a Patient Advocate. We also have special programs for our dogs who meet with behavioral health patients from Linden Oaks Hospital.

Apply to the program

If you think your dog has what it takes to help patients, we invite you to apply to our Animal Assisted Therapy Program. You must be at least 18 years of age. Your dog must:

  • Sit and lie down with only one command
  • Stay until you call him or her with only one command
  • Walk loosely on a leash and not pull, even when excited
  • Be friendly with other dogs
  • Be able to perform commands without treats as a reward

We have other requirements to help you, your pet and our patients enjoy the experience. Your dog should:

  • Enjoy people
  • Not bark or whine too much
  • Be at least one year of age and have lived with owner for at least six months
  • Be up-to-date on all vaccinations, including rabies
  • Not have any skin problems
  • Be bathed within 24 hours of a patient visit
  • Complete a group obedience training class within the past six months

We also ask that you do not use prong collars, gentle leaders or retractable leashes. Review qualities of an "A+ Therapy Dog."

Temperament testing

Temperament testing is required for all dog/handler teams prior to acceptance into the Animal Assisted Therapy Program. You’ll need to be prescreened prior to getting a temperament testing appointment. For more information, call Edward Volunteer Department at 630-527-5305, or Elmhurst Volunteer Department at 331-221-4095.

Animal Assisted Therapy Program Applications

Edward Animal-Assisted Therapy Program

Elmhurst Animal-Assisted Therapy Program