Is a regular question.
I am always very clear that I do not do animal assisted therapy. For one thing, I am not a qualified therapist. I am a coach. But the main clue, really, is in the assisted bit. My dogs do not assist me. My dogs are central and actually, they lead the way. They open the door, and if my timing is good, I can step on through to join them.
My dogs are very much dogs, with all that brings, a rich tapestry of material to work alongside. Their stories, behaviours, characters and personalities. The way they relate to people. Their levels of confidence and engagement. Their ability to relate to other dogs. My dogs are all ex homeless dogs with a back story of their own, which often reflect those of the young people I work alongside.
My dogs are really education dogs- education about dogs, and the lessons we can learn about ourselves. As such they do not have to be perfectly behaved. Actually that would be a serious disadvantage when you work the way I do!
All their behaviours can give us something to reflect on.
Teya is not allowed off lead when we are working outside due to an unreliable recall. This allows for opportunity to reflect many things- including but not limited to – keeping safe, being responsible for another being, past experiences making it harder sometimes to learn new things, taking time to get things to the best they can be.
Izzy has all some traits of ADHD – impulsive, easily distracted, hyper active. She’s even written a book about it to help children, so has turned her ADHD into a superpower.
Billy has always been a nervous dog – these reflections can focus on comfort zones, recovery times; learning to live with anxiety, but still maintaining joy and enthusiasm for life. As we work out a plan to help Billy with his anxiety, it’s a shorter, easier, logical step to working out one for ourselves.
Each dog is a testament to overcoming past experiences, to the development of resilience. Not denying those experiences happened, but not being totally limited by them either.
In this way the dogs give us so much more to work with in a way that children and young people- and adults too- find non threatening and without judgement.
So, having said I do not do animal assisted therapy, it may seem strange to become an education partner for an organisation called Therapeutic Paws India, who do! Well firstly I do think dogs are therapeutic, (obviously). Secondly the key is that I am an education partner which sits comfortably with me. Thirdly I am just so impressed with this organisation who are working so hard to lead the way for a relatively new field in India. They are harnessing a wealth of knowledge from across the globe including Canada and Switzerland- and now the UK. My experience will no doubt be different to those of other partners and I have definitely been delivering a great number of interventions for 12 years across different client groups with a diverse range of targets and outcomes.
I very much look forward to this new partnership and anticipate it will be an enriching experience.
We have some free places on their AAT Certificate Level 1 course- Augusts places are taken – I have some applications for the September course as well.
Check out their website for more information.