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have heard that traditionally, dogs are very useful for developing children
with "special needs", they help to improve elderly people's
mood and increase their level of activity, etc. Animal assisted development
and education is a full speciality, and I gained an insight into this
wonderful world with Mador.
forms of animal assisted programs
speak the same language, I describe the 3 basic forms of animal assisted
programs that are widespread in the international documentations (I'm
sure you can find different definitions but here is the essential):
AAA - Animal Assisted Activity - relaxing, sometimes educational
activities with animal interaction. Participation of specialized personnel
(i.e. medicinal teacher, pshycologist, conductor, etc.) is not required.
Planning and documentation level is low. Objectives are: good mood,
AAT - Animal Assisted Therapy - goal-oriented therapy relations
in a planned and well documented form. The main participants and their
relationships can be seen below (so the handler is not dealing with
the children (Patient) but with the therapeutist and the dog).
AAE - Animal Assisted Education - classroom interaction specialized
to schoolboys/girls, with their active participation. Objectives include
to help learning the given subject, to improve/change inter-children
social interactions, to decrease/eliminate "clicks" or "gangs",
to motivate children, to increase level of concentration, to minimize
behavioral issues, to resolve personal problems, etc.
Animal Handler training courses
Foundation training course
2008 I started the Therapy Animal Handler training organized
by the Mancsos Segítõtársaink
Terápiás Állatok és Oktatási Alapítvány
(Our Helpers With Paws Therapy Animals and Education Foundation) to
learn the theoretical background for my work started in 2007, and to
provide a more structured practical work with Mador. I would like to
express my acknowledgements, here again, to Györgyi Gaál
for realizing the training course and for her constant practical aide
Therapy Animal Handler training had 3 main sections:
Theoretical course and exam
Animal suitability assessment
Agenda and lecturers of the Therapy Animal Handling training theoretical
of Pedagogy - Márta Farkas
of Medicinal Pedagogy - Anett Illés
of Psychology and Psychiatry - Edit Kalo
of Conductive Pedagogy - Katalin Tóth
relationships, overview of specialities in human lifetime -
Processes and regulations of animal assisted programs:
background of animal assisted programs - Györgyi Gaál
AAA, AAT and AAE - Györgyi Gaál
errors in practice, improvisations, cooperation with professionals
- Györgyi Gaál
regulations, animal protection, ethics, animal health regulations
- Györgyi Gaál
- Tamara Kutasi
Involvement of animals into programs:
of different animal species - Györgyi Gaál
dog (domestication, etology) - Györgyi Gaál
cat (domestication, etology) - Györgyi Gaál
Feeding, environment, training:
basics of animal training - Györgyi Gaál
- Györgyi Gaál
for animals- Györgyi Gaál
the end of the course, there was a 100-points theoretical exam that
I passed with 91%, as best of the group.
is not enough to have a handler with a theoretical exam - we need a
suitable animal (in our case, a dog) for the animal assisted program!
the Therapy Animal Handling training Animal suitability assessment:
obedience excercises with owner and stranger
to touching, touching sensitive body areas (by owner and stranger)
then came the biggest challenge for the dog-handler team: the exam!
of the Therapy Animal Handling training
Obedience excercises: apart from general basic excercises (sit,
lay down, stand, heel, stay, left-right), we have to handle the dog
on the left but also on the right side, handling by others (a child),
greeting (i.e. bark, paws), apport, interaction with people initialized
by the dog, etc.
Therapy situation: greeting, handling participants in wheelchair,
reactions to unexpected loud noises, refuse food, play, give back toys,
ignore toys that had not been given to the dog, obedience to participants,
put/remove harness, caress dog, other special excercises, games.
Dog cosmetician assessment: general health check, definition of
expected appearance (both dog and handler) at the therapy scene.
Handler psychologic assessment: answering questions to be evaluated
later by psychologist, about handler's motivation, objectives, preferences.
think it is important to state how key people the helpers are
during the exam. To simulate a real therapy situation, we need someone
in a wheelchair (real), children/participants with different level of
special needs, people who are afraid of / too open toward dogs, too
loud, too introverted, someone who open the door to disturb etc. The
helpers previously had a separate education, to ensure the interaction
will happen as planned. Special thanks for the Helpers as well!
passed the practical exam as well. (I note: at Obedience exam, we made
the most points with Mador, ahead of all candidates (german shepherd,
shetland sheperd, golden retriever, tibet terrier, airedale terrier,
feel specially honored, that - as of acknowledging my work so far -
I was requested to be head of therapy exam committee and conduct
therapy and suitability exams both at Helpers with Paws Foundation
and at Hungarian Therapy and Helping Dogs Society Association (www.matesze.hu)
Habilitation Dog Trainer course (certified by State)
planned to give an official framework to my therapy experiences
so I participated at the OKJ Habilitation Dog Trainer course (OKJ
is National List of Educations, this course is listed under number
528100110000000), organised by Focus
to the modular structure, 3 modules were approved from the OKJ Dog
Groomer course, so I could concentrate on the professional subjects.
The course took almost 1.5 years, biweekly, our exams finished in
of the OKJ Habilitation Dog Trainer course included:
Safety at work, fire and environmental safety (Ingrid Lengyel, approved)
Basics of enterpreneurship (Katalin Rácz, approved)
Dog behaviour and animal welfare studies (György Kovács)
Theory of the employment of service dogs (Ingrid Lengyel)
Basic communications studies (Ingrid Lengyel)
Service dog training and its legal regulation (Péter Vasteleki-Einbeck)
Dog therapy in practice (Péter Vasteleki-Einbeck, Klára
Animal health studies (Dr. Attila Vainer, approved)
Basics of dog keeping and feeding (Dr. Attila Vainer)
exam consisted of three parts:
theoretical modules, drawing from 20-20 predefined topics each
a dog trainer, basic obedience excercises with own dog, drawing
from undefined topics
practice in institution with unknown therapy dog, drawing topic
and dog (I saw the dog there for the first time but we cooperated
so well that the childrens' teacher thought he was my own dog).
very proud that during my practical exam, a very shy girl who was
afraid of dogs, by the end of the session, she handled the dog all
by herself (Garde de la Vie Justice "Zen", belgian shepherd
dog malinois, breeder: Sarolta Leczki, owner: Beatrix Belényi,
KEA TKF-A434), even the members of the committee were applauding.
I received 100% or around in several modules at the exams, so I
finished best of group with 98% average performance.
like to take the opportunity here as well to say thank you to all
who helped me.
and presentation from animal assisted activities point of view
dog to the right problem! It is important to be aware: not all dogs
are suitable for all therapy objectives, this is why we need to know
the objective of the program and the dog, to realize an effective and
the session, the behavior of the dog and the child can basically be
active or passive (none of them is "good" or "bad",
just we need to find the match of dog-child with the specific type and
dog is the passive partner of the interaction, or is not participating
in it at all (i.e. laying down and children are talking about
the body scheme, or is relaxing, or we perform picture/paper excercises),
dog performs the same actions as the child (i.e. sit, lay down),
dog is participating in role plays (i.e. fire (sit) - water (lay
down) - aeroplane (stand), is playing in circle games, etc.
expect the child to be passive (i.e. hyperactive child must sit
while the dog is "producing", or the dog is eating the
treats from the child, etc.)
The child is observing: telling what the dog is doing, how the
dog looks like.
Developing basal sensors: child is closing eyes and waits where
the dog will touch.
Relaxation: child lays down on the dog, breathing with it.
is participating in interactions, is in direct contact with the
dog or is in contact with it without touching (watching the dog,
reacting upon dog's position).
for animal assisted programs:
of the dog, phenotype: size, length of hair, colors, etc. (When
is the dog changing hair, needs trimming (i.e. terriers), when changing
hair, organise more passive tasks, and the room will need cleaning
is a middle sized dog. Her basic colours are black-white-tan (tricolour),
but we can find pink (tongue) as well. Her hair is long, but short
on the face and the paws. Ears are erect with one third (1/3)
down. Tail is long and well coated, there are flags on her legs.
excercises known by the dog, in what form (oral/gesture)
works for voice and gestures alike, from near and far (I added
her signs when applicable):
- sit (fist clanched),
- down (hand with open palm, closed fingers, pointing down the
- stand (hand to the side),
- stay (palm outside, open fingers (five)),
- to me (both arms showing sideways (T)),
- turn in both directions (index
fingers circle left and right),
- give it to me: please,
the dog slow and unhurried, or is quick and active. The more disabled
the child is, the slower dog is needed. This characteristic defines
if the dog is good for active/passive excercises/children. For a
post-accident rehabilitation, for example, a quick active dog is
suitable (moving arms - throw ball many times).
works at middle speed but if needed (especially with treats) she
works very quickly, however when needed she can stay as well.
the dog "hard" or "soft", how dominant, how
easy to handle.
is very "soft", not dominant, easy to manage, she would
like to fit. If a situation is too much for her, she steps out.
child and the dog are at about the same height. A child either loves,
or hates if the dog is licking (not in between, really). Some children
dislike when the dog touches them, they say the dog "bit"
them. Licking of the belly especially calm down the autist children.
Licking dogs are not dominant. Needs to discuss this beforehand
(i.e. eyes/lips cannot be licked, but hand, ears yes). It is advised
to bring a small towel.
is not licking, except if the child explicitely asks for it (pushing
the face/neck/ear, laughs, touches, encourages her). I personally
don't like it so do not tolerate for a long time.
How much the dog is seeking physical contact (not all children like
when the dog approaches, sniffs, the handler must be able to stop
is rather reserved, likes to keep a distance but for treat she
is well willing to step into somebody else's personal space.
much the dog tolerates the pain caused (in most cases unwillingly)
by the children, and how it reacts to it (i.e. bites or just walks
away). Well socialized dog knows that the pain was caused by accident,
but we also know children who intentionally cause pain to dogs.
Excercises must be introduced gradually so that both the child and
the dog can be relaxed.
tolerates pain to a high level, if pain is caused, she vocalises
and steps aside. She allows touching and petting any part of her
body. In case of problem she turns to me for help or steps out
of the situation.
parts to be touched
parts of the body are allowed to touch by the dog, are there any
parts to be avoided
allows touching and petting any part of her body, even her tongue.
is the dog afraid of (there must be something, maybe a balloon).
There might be many tools with the children that the dog might be
afraid of, these need to be shown to the dog before the session
(i.e. crutch, flute).
is reserved at first, but after getting to know a novelty then
it causes no issues whatsoever in the future. She is not afraid
are the noises the dog reacts to negatively (i.e. child scream).
In some cases shepherd dogs start to herd on the noise of the clappers).
In a pub/disco, if the dog seeks for help in case of lights and
noises, the handler needs to pay attention, understand and react
tolerates well the sudden loud noises. There is no reaction on child
screem, cry, shouting, maximum she tries to solace them or asks
for help from me how to react (expectation: stay neutral).
that the dog loves, and can be used any time (sometime we need to
improvise and have a spontaneous excercise).
is always good at basic obedience, the "Imitate the dog"
game is always useable (when the children must do what the dog does
on hand signals: sit, stand and lay down). She is always ready for
playing with the ball.
best to avoid (i.e. when on a sudden loud noise, the dog would jump
in the lap).
does not like being touched from in front of her eyes.
many children the dog can handle. I.e. 4-5 children, with an active
dog we can have 8. Ideal number is 5-6 children, if there are more,
we will need more dogs or helpers, to involve everybody.
adapts extremely well to any situations, only the institution/specialist/teacher
defines the number of children. The largest number of children
for her was 21 retarded, autist, Down-syndrom etc. group.
how long can we work with the dog (in books we can find 20-40 minutes
per session, in practice this depends on the children, but maximum
was mostly asked for 30-45 minutes sessions. As soon as she shows
me signs that she is exhausted, I stop the session.
unique excercises can we do with the dog
speciality is the "pincers game", in different alterations
(i.e. to teach the body scheme, the children have to put clothes-pins
on different body parts, or to learn the colors, they have to select
the pins, or to distinguish big and little, they need to select
the right pins, or another game is the seek-and-hide, they need
to find the hidden pins in her hair, etc.)
to dog therapy, I first participated at excellent presentations at the
Course or conferences, but on 30th August, 2011 the time came when I
had the chance to present at the Budapest Center of Congress. Anett
Illés has received an invitation to present at the 2nd
World Congress of Art Therapies where she invited me with Mador
as co-presenter and interpreter. We chose the following title for our
presentation: Enhance Artistic Skills at Canine Assisted Activities.
Anett has built up an excellent presentation for only 20 minutes:
of our presenation Enhance Artistic Skills at Canine Assisted Activities:
Benefits of Canine Interactions
of Animal Assisted Interactions (AAA, AAT, AAE)
of Canine Assisted Art Therapy (presentation of the process by selecting
1-1 specific area
of Artistic Education (i.e. enhance music skills)
(i.e. kindergarten children)
Assisted Interaction (i.e. animal assisted therapy)
Development Areas (fine and large movements, thinking, sensing,
communication, language, talking)
Analysis and Alignment of the selected area, age group and interaction
Activities for Various Development Areas
can be downloaded
here (.pdf, 1,5 MB)
activities involving the audience after the presentation:
on the dog's position, women (sit) and men (lay down) make a noise
volunteer is "given a present" by the dog: a piece of
paper is attached to the dog with a picture on it, and the person
is associating to the children song (to our greatest pleasure, an
enthousiastic lady sang beautifully and clearly the song "Ég
a gyertya, ég" (The candle is lit))
a song game with a distributed
Kodály-method solmisation scheme based on notes represented
by different dog positions (if you happen to know which song is
this, send it to me for
a little surprise). I have never ever seen such an innovative dog-music
guess game by Kodály-method solmisation scheme
decided that from now on, we are ready to provide interactive presentations
about dog therapy in the following languages: Hungarian ,
in February 2012, I was very proud for the invitation by Ideo
Group to hold a 2+ hour presentation with Mador for their Volksbank
clients in the area of Stress Management With Dog.
of my presenation
Stress Management With Dog:
with dog flyer
(.pdf, 4.9 MB)
retarded and Down-syndromed children approach the dog screaming
by stranger (retarded child)
in front of healthy, retarded and Down-syndromed children sitting
with eyes closed
under healthy, retarded and Down-syndromed children all fours
Leadability over healthy, retarded and Down-syndromed children laying
down face down
camp 1 pictures
video: therapy walk (.mov, 33 MB)
mentally retarded, autist and Down-syndrome children
excercises with mentally retarded, autist and Down-syndrome children
by unkown children (both healthy and mentally disabled).
Hegedûs Karate Sport Egyesület / Karate Sport Association
Millie therapy with appr. 35 healthy children on request from HKSE
karate association in the City Park:
- respect for rules,
- general dog keeping,
- cynology, anatomy,
- dog training methods,
- breed groups,
- body scheme,
- large motoric movements,
- movies, books,
- Hungarian breeds.
can find a wild variety of special books, especially in English/German.
With no intention to list them all, here are the websites and
books that I like the most:
animals tematic link collection (http://terapiasallatok.lap.hu)
this is why I don't list one by one the Hungarian and foreign therapy
organisations and foundations
Segítõtársaink Terápiás Állatok
és Oktatási Alapítvány / Paw Helpers Therapy
Animals and Education Foundation (www.mancsosok.hu) course materials,
specialized conferences, everyday support
Society Organization - American organisation with great experience and
Anett dog therapy pages (www.kutyasterapia.hu) also see Publications!
you know more really good links/books, please share
with me. Thank you.
will find a solution!
you have inquiries for your/your friend's child(ren) or institution,
please do not hesitate to contact
me. We will find a solution! Thank you.