Canine Companions in Retirement Residences


Depending on what kind of senior retirement community you live in, you may or may not have a companion or therapy dogs’ program. It’s a fun activity for everyone but spending time with companion dogs can have more benefits than just having a good time.

What is a Companion Dog?

They are therapy dogs trained to be calm and gentle with everyone they meet. They are not the same as service dogs who are trained to help people with various illnesses or differences in abilities and are not the same as an emotional support animal. Companion dogs are trained, while emotional support animals don’t receive any training and are given the designation through a prescription from a doctor.

Depending on where a dog will be serving as a therapy dog, they will be trained to meet certain criteria. The gold standard of these tests is the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) Canine Good Neighbour program, which requires a dog to pass 12 criteria if they are going to visit residents in senior retirement communities in Oakville, ON, or elsewhere:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger.
  2. Sitting quietly and politely for petting.
  3. Acceptable appearance and grooming.
  4. Behaviour while on a walk (how the handler makes sure the dog is well-behaved).
  5. Walking calmly through a crowd.
  6. Sitting and staying on command.
  7. Coming when called.
  8. Staying polite while being praised and interacting with others.
  9. Polite behavior around other dogs as they pass by.
  10. Staying calm when startled or distracted.
  11. Maintaining good behaviour while not with their primary handler.
  12. Walking calmly through a door or gate.

A majority of the therapy dogs that visit Queens Avenue Retirement Residence are part of the St. John Therapy Dog Program.

What Does a Companion Dog Do in a Retirement Residence?

Simply put, they provide love and companionship to anyone who needs or wants it. They’re a wonderful emotional support resource for any resident that might be lonely, missing their own dog, or just love to cuddle a friendly pet.  In most residences, a team of therapy dogs will visit once every week or two, as is the case at Queens Avenue Retirement Residence. Visits from therapy dogs are highly anticipated at our retirement residence!

The benefits of therapy animal visits may seem self-evident, but they do more than make residents happy! Some other benefits of therapy dog visits are:

  1. Lowers blood pressure.
  2. Encourages communication.
  3. Releases endorphins, like oxytocin, in the body which have a calming effect.
  4. Increases socializing and encourages a sense of community.
  5. Decreases physical pain.
  6. Decreases feelings of anxiety.

A Senior Retirement Community That Supports You

Queens Avenue Retirement Residence has many programs meant to enrich our residents’ lives, with our therapy dog program being just one of them. You can call us at (905) 815-0862 xt 106 to find out more about us or schedule a tour in person! You can also contact us through our website.



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