Introduction - Basic forms - Courses - Dog useability - Presentations - Therapy camp - References - Bibliography - Find a solution!


I 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.

Basic forms of animal assisted programs

To 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):

1. 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, positive feelings.

2. 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).

Terápia szereplõinek kapcsolata

3. 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.


Therapy Animal Handler training courses

Mancsos Foundation training course

In 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 and advices.

The Therapy Animal Handler training had 3 main sections:

1. Theoretical course and exam
2. Animal suitability assessment
3. Practical exam

1. Agenda and lecturers of the Therapy Animal Handling training theoretical course:

  • a. Professional basics:
    • Basics of Pedagogy - Márta Farkas
    • Basics of Medicinal Pedagogy - Anett Illés
    • Basics of Psychology and Psychiatry - Edit Kalo
    • Basics of Conductive Pedagogy - Katalin Tóth
    • Human-animal relationships, overview of specialities in human lifetime - Györgyi Gaál
  • b. Processes and regulations of animal assisted programs:
    • Theoretical background of animal assisted programs - Györgyi Gaál
    • AAA, AAT and AAE - Györgyi Gaál
    • Potential errors in practice, improvisations, cooperation with professionals - Györgyi Gaál
    • Legal regulations, animal protection, ethics, animal health regulations - Györgyi Gaál
    • Supervision - Tamara Kutasi
  • c. Involvement of animals into programs:
    • Useability of different animal species - Györgyi Gaál
    • The dog (domestication, etology) - Györgyi Gaál
    • The cat (domestication, etology) - Györgyi Gaál
  • d. Feeding, environment, training:
    • Theoretical basics of animal training - Györgyi Gaál
    • Feeding - Györgyi Gaál
    • Environment for animals- Györgyi Gaál

At the end of the course, there was a 100-points theoretical exam that I passed with 91%, as best of the group.

It 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!

2. Agenda of the Therapy Animal Handling training Animal suitability assessment:

  • Basic obedience excercises with owner and stranger
  • Refuse food
  • Reactions to touching, touching sensitive body areas (by owner and stranger)
  • Sensitivity to noises
  • Etc.

And then came the biggest challenge for the dog-handler team: the exam!

3. Agenda of the Therapy Animal Handling training practical exam:

a. 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.
b. 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.
c. Dog cosmetician assessment: general health check, definition of expected appearance (both dog and handler) at the therapy scene.
d. Handler psychologic assessment: answering questions to be evaluated later by psychologist, about handler's motivation, objectives, preferences.

I 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!

We 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, maltese!).

I 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 (www.mancsosok.hu) and at Hungarian Therapy and Helping Dogs Society Association (www.matesze.hu)


OKJ Habilitation Dog Trainer course (certified by State)

I 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 Training Center.

Thanks 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 December, 2014.

Topics of the OKJ Habilitation Dog Trainer course included:

  • 1714-09 Safety at work, fire and environmental safety (Ingrid Lengyel, approved)
  • 1722-06 Basics of enterpreneurship (Katalin Rácz, approved)
  • 2835-09 Dog behaviour and animal welfare studies (György Kovács)
  • 2836-09 Theory of the employment of service dogs (Ingrid Lengyel)
  • 2837-09 Basic communications studies (Ingrid Lengyel)
  • 2838-09 Service dog training and its legal regulation (Péter Vasteleki-Einbeck)
  • 2839-09 Dog therapy in practice (Péter Vasteleki-Einbeck, Klára Kovács)
  • 3116-09 Animal health studies (Dr. Attila Vainer, approved)
  • 3117-09 Basics of dog keeping and feeding (Dr. Attila Vainer)

The exam consisted of three parts:

  • 8 theoretical modules, drawing from 20-20 predefined topics each
  • As a dog trainer, basic obedience excercises with own dog, drawing from undefined topics
  • Therapy 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).

I am 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.

I would like to take the opportunity here as well to say thank you to all who helped me.



Further photo albums:

05.07.2014 OKJ practice REX (REX Dog Home Foundation)

19.07.2014 OKJ practice REX

23.09.2014 OKJ practice Home for Elderly People (Bischitz Johanna Integrated Humane Services Center)

27.09.2014 OKJ practice Young Ladies Home (EMMI Rákospalota Correction Institution and Special Childrens' Home)

11.10.2014 OKJ practice REX

25.10.2014 OKJ practice REX

22.11.2014 OKJ exaxm REX


Dog useability and presentation from animal assisted activities point of view

Right 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 successful program.

During 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 therapy objective):

Passive dog:
The 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), etc.
Active dog:
The 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.
Passive child:
We 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.
Active child:
Child 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).

Characteristics for animal assisted programs:

Looks Looks 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 after session)

Millie 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 Obedience excercises known by the dog, in what form (oral/gesture)

Millie 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 floor),
- 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),
- slalom,
- eight,
- heel,
- wait,
- bring,
- give it to me: please,
- bow.

Level of activity Is 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).

Millie works at middle speed but if needed (especially with treats) she works very quickly, however when needed she can stay as well.

Character Is the dog "hard" or "soft", how dominant, how easy to handle.

Millie is very "soft", not dominant, easy to manage, she would like to fit. If a situation is too much for her, she steps out.

Licking The 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.

Millie 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.

Distance How much the dog is seeking physical contact (not all children like when the dog approaches, sniffs, the handler must be able to stop the dog).

Millie is rather reserved, likes to keep a distance but for treat she is well willing to step into somebody else's personal space.

Pain tolerance How 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.

Millie 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.

Body parts to be touched Which parts of the body are allowed to touch by the dog, are there any parts to be avoided Millie allows touching and petting any part of her body, even her tongue.
Fears What 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).

Millie is reserved at first, but after getting to know a novelty then it causes no issues whatsoever in the future. She is not afraid of thunderstorms.

Reaction to noises What 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 accordingly. Millie 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).
Strengths Excercises that the dog loves, and can be used any time (sometime we need to improvise and have a spontaneous excercise). Millie 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.
Weaknesses Situations best to avoid (i.e. when on a sudden loud noise, the dog would jump in the lap). Millie does not like being touched from in front of her eyes.
Number of children How 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.

Millie 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.

Time For 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 1.5 hours). Millie was mostly asked for 30-45 minutes sessions. As soon as she shows me signs that she is exhausted, I stop the session.
Specialities What unique excercises can we do with the dog Millie's 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.)

Source: Anett Illés' presentation



Related 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:

Content of our presenation Enhance Artistic Skills at Canine Assisted Activities:

  • Main Benefits of Canine Interactions
  • Types of Animal Assisted Interactions (AAA, AAT, AAE)
  • Aspects of Canine Assisted Art Therapy (presentation of the process by selecting 1-1 specific area)
    • Elements of Artistic Education (i.e. enhance music skills)
    • Age (i.e. kindergarten children)
    • Animal Assisted Interaction (i.e. animal assisted therapy)
  • Main Development Areas (fine and large movements, thinking, sensing, communication, language, talking)
  • Deep Analysis and Alignment of the selected area, age group and interaction type
  • Sample Activities for Various Development Areas
  • Situation in Hungary

The presentation can be downloaded here (.pdf, 1,5 MB)

Interactive activities involving the audience after the presentation:

  • Based on the dog's position, women (sit) and men (lay down) make a noise (high-low voices)
  • A 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))
  • Guess 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 excercise!

Kutyakotta rejtvény
Dog-music guess game by Kodály-method solmisation scheme


We decided that from now on, we are ready to provide interactive presentations about dog therapy in the following languages: Hungarian HU, English EN, German DE, French FRor Spanish ES.


Then 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.

Content of my presenation Stress Management With Dog:

  • Stress
  • Dog
  • Stress Management with Dogs

Stressz kezelés kutyával plakát
Stress management with dog flyer

Download presentation from here (.pdf, 4.9 MB)


Therapy camp 1

Between 1st and 4th of August we participated at a therapy camp organised by Mancsos Segítõtársaink Terápiás Állatok és Oktatási Alapítvány (Helpers With Paws Therapy Animals and Education Fundation) in Pálmonostora. I slowly introduced Millie into the helping world of mentally retarded and Down-syndromed children. Excercises performed with Millie:

  • Healthy, retarded and Down-syndromed children approach the dog screaming
  • Leadability by stranger (retarded child)
  • Leadability in front of healthy, retarded and Down-syndromed children sitting with eyes closed
  • Leadability under healthy, retarded and Down-syndromed children all fours
  • Leadability over healthy, retarded and Down-syndromed children laying down face down

Therapy camp 1 pictures

Sunset.Sky..Rebeka, Millie.Rebeka, Millie


The Team.Millie.Millie.Millie.Millie



Millie video: therapy walk (.mov, 33 MB)

Therapy camp 2

Between 29 and 31 July 2013, we participated at the Therapy camp organised again by Mancsos Segítõtársaink Terápiás Állatok és Oktatási Alapítvány (Helpers With Paws Therapy Animals and Education Fundation) in Dunapataj-Szelid. Millie cooperated excellently with 21 mentally retarded, Down-syndrome and authist, and an additional 15 healthy children. Excercises performed with Millie:

  • Greeting mentally retarded, autist and Down-syndrome children
  • Contact excercises with mentally retarded, autist and Down-syndrome children
  • Leadability by unkown children (both healthy and mentally disabled).

Therapy camp 2 pictures



HKSE Hegedûs Karate Sport Egyesület / Karate Sport Association www.hkse.hu
Millie therapy with appr. 35 healthy children on request from HKSE karate association in the City Park:
- respect for rules,
- motivation,
- general dog keeping,
- cynology, anatomy,
- dog training methods,
- breed groups,
- body scheme,
- large motoric movements,
- movies, books,
- Hungarian breeds.

Millie therapy
More photos >>



We 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:

Therapy 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

Mancsos Segítõtársaink Terápiás Állatok és Oktatási Alapítvány / Paw Helpers Therapy Animals and Education Foundation (www.mancsosok.hu) course materials, specialized conferences, everyday support

Delta Society Organization - American organisation with great experience and materials (www.deltasociety.org)

Illés Anett dog therapy pages (www.kutyasterapia.hu) also see Publications!

If you know more really good links/books, please share with me. Thank you.


We will find a solution!

Should 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.


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