I was with SJA for eight years in York Region (Newmarket) with my own dog and then as an assistant coordinator doing supervised visits with new dog teams. Along with the age and diet requirements you mentioned the dogs must be owned by you for minimum 6 months if acquired as an adult and be tolerant and well-behaved around other dogs. The qualifications for a Canine Good Neighbour certificate are pretty close to the preliminary test that SJA does. Once the dog passes the test, the team must do 10 probationary visits, some with supervision. The handler must commit to a regular schedule of visiting in an assigned facility and be willing to take part in community events as well. We didn't demand OB certification but a loose-leash walk, and a good solid Down, Stay and Leave It are expected. For the reading programs, the dog had to be child-tested in a separate evaluation after a certain number of regular visiting hours (I think I recall it is 60 hours but could be wrong). Sitka's personality sounds promising. Do keep him working in OB and continue with other forms of training until you want to be evaluated for SJA. Evaluations are held several times a year so you might have to wait a bit after you apply. The handler also has to have a police criminal records check and provide a vet certificate of good health and vaccine status. If I've forgotten anything, feel free to ask!
Wow! You are a wealth of information! It's contributors like you that keep me coming back here
I hadn't thought about the vaccines and police checks, but of course that makes sense and won't be a problem at all.
Sitka can be reactive to small dogs right now, so more training is a must. I plan to keep Sitka in obedience training for the next few years, and I've talked to his current trainer about therapy-specific training.
It's good to know about all the minimum requirements and testing. I think it will be a bit like having a second job. This makes me even more interested, though. It will be great experience for me, and I think very rewarding for Sitka.
As far as kids, Sitka has been around many children of all ages, 1 at a time as well as up to 8 children running around him. He has been around neurotypical children as well as multiple children and youth with special needs. He is very patient and perfectly content - especially if he is getting lots of hugs and back scratches. He can get a little more than 'licky' with sticky fingers, so more experience/training will be needed. Luckily he is not food driven or possessive in the least! He doesn't even go after food dropped in the kitchen! I tried to give him a carrot once and he would hardly look at it. Peanut butter? not a chance!
Thank you so much for your input! Do you have any contact information from your 8 years experience? If you have an email or phone number other than the generic website one, I would definitely appreciate a DM.
I will keep up with his training and hopefully in a few year's time he will be a great help!
What kind of therapy did you do with your dog?
Thanks again for all the input!