About the program

Our Caring Canines program volunteers provide bedside visits to patients at American Family Children’s Hospital. Both dogs and their owners are hospital volunteers and provide a calming influence, cuddle time and normalization for our patients and families during their time at the hospital. This program is different from our facility dog program where our dogs work alongside staff in specific coping plans with patients.


What it takes

If you think your dog has what it takes to help patients, we invite you to apply to our Caring Canines program.

To serve as a volunteer you must be at least 18 years of age, commit to at least one year of service and visit American Family Children’s Hospital with your dog at least two times each month.

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

  • Not bark or whine too much


Steps to becoming a volunteer

Participating volunteer teams successfully complete a four-step application process which is critically important to ensure safe and enjoyable hospital visits for both our patients and our visiting dogs.

Please know that only about 10% of evaluated dogs will be invited to become visiting dog volunteers.

  1. 01.
    Complete form

    Complete our volunteer application.

    Apply now
  2. 02.
    Phone interview

    If your application is accepted, our staff will schedule a phone interview and will send you a health form for your dog's veterinarian to complete.

  3. 03.
    Temperament testing

    Upon completion of the first two steps, some applicants will be invited for temperament testing. This rigorous, “hands-on” behavior assessment by dog behavioral experts will occur twice a year and as needed to fill volunteer vacancies.

  4. 04.
    Volunteer training

    If your dog is accepted into the program, you will proceed to complete our volunteer onboarding. This includes completing online training, clearance through our Employee Health Services, a criminal background check and distribution of your volunteer badge and polo shirt. After these onboarding requirements are completed you will be required to attend our visiting dog training and orientation.