Sun Dog – Specialty Dog Therapists
Therapeutic dogs are a unique means of rehabilitation for children with developmental disabilities. The use of dog therapists – canis therapy – is aimed at solving the problems of integration and social adaptation of children with disabilities. This direction has a rich history abroad, but in Russia it has appeared relatively recently and is actively developing. At our Center, the first dog therapist was trained in 2003.
Canis therapy in our country does not yet have an official status and legislatively established criteria for the selection, training and use of dog therapists, as well as the training of specialists in this field. In our work, we are guided by the Canis Therapist Code of Ethics.
We call canis therapy classes with specially trained dogs aimed at correcting, rehabilitating and socially adapting children with developmental disabilities. These classes involve targeted actions, exercises involving direct contact of the child with the animal.
The center prepares dog therapists for specific children (we transfer the trained dog to the family) and for classes with different children (for organizations and public associations involved in canis therapy). The waiting list includes children who need a GP. The feasibility of obtaining a dog therapist is determined during the interview with the parents (guardians) and the examination of the child by a psychologist / teacher and a defectologist. A prerequisite is the willingness of parents to conduct their own activities with the child after receiving the dog. Specialists develop an individual training program with the child, which also serves as the basis for the preparation of the dog.
Dogs, prospective therapists, undergo a comprehensive examination, the selected ones are trained in a general (disciplinary) and special course. Pass tests in accordance with the standards available at the Center.
The transfer of the dog to the recipient includes parent training and activities with the child with the participation of: parent, trainer and teacher / psychologist. After the transfer of the dog, we supervise the family, provide assistance, adjust the program. The transfer of the dog is free of charge on the basis of a charitable donation agreement, which provides for the Center’s control over the use and maintenance of the dog.
For organizations and public associations, the procedure for obtaining a dog is generally the same. We find out the conditions for keeping the dog and conducting classes, the qualifications of specialists who will conduct classes with children, their cynological training. The transferred dog undergoes an advanced training program, as it has to work with children with various diagnoses. The dog and a representative of the organization for which it is prepared undergoes a preliminary training in the Sunny Dog group.
We specially emphasize that our trainers, engaged in the training of dog therapists, never work with children on their own, without prior consultation and supervision by a specialist teacher or psychologist.
In 2003, the team “Sunny Dog” was created – a group of enthusiasts with dogs trained in the course “dog therapist” or “dog-assistant to the disabled,” which are experimentally, in collaboration with neurologists, speech therapists, defectologists, parents of children with developmental disorders for the first time in our country are developing a comprehensive long-term program of canis therapy.
Currently, four volunteers with their dogs of the Labrador and Golden Retriever breeds, and a social psychologist, are engaged in the Sunny Dog group with children. More than 50 children from one and a half to twenty years with various diseases come to classes 1-2 times a week: cerebral palsy, down syndrome, RDA, oligophrenia, mental and speech development delays of various origins, hearing impaired, blind, children with various somatic diseases. Classes are free, held at the premises of the educational center No. 1492 and the cultural and educational center named after John Chrysostom, at the Children’s Ecological Center “Our Sunny World”, as well as courses at the social and rehabilitation center “Dimina Dream.”
In addition to regular classes, the Sunny Dog group conducts field classes in rehabilitation centers, boarding schools, camps for children with special needs, demonstrations at festivals, and Mercy Lessons in schools and kindergartens for healthy children.
Since 2009, seminars have been held for specialists and those interested in canis therapy.
Dogs-therapists, which are trained by the Center, take a practical course of work with children in the Sunny Dog group.