Animal Assisted Interventions
The canine and human members of our interdisciplinary teams have professional ongoing evaluations and training that exceed basic pet obedience and/or therapy dog evaluations. The teams are either being trained or have already been trained with people of all ages and abilities, and in a variety of environments. The dogs have a skill level and generalization that is conducive to working directly with the participant/client. We believe it is important to empower our participants and teach them to positively engage dogs in their own sessions, and in some cases—sessions with others!
Our therapy and program participants learn positive rules of engagement, voice control, emotional control, and physical control of themselves. We incorporate lessons in observation and positive communication in relation to animals, themselves, and other people so that they can engage others in conversations or activities. We give attention to the welfare of the animals, and do not put them in a position to become harmed, to develop fears or undesired behavioral outcomes during the evaluations, training, or intervention sessions. Most importantly, the dogs must love their work to be in this environment. Dogs have ample time with each other, with clients, and to be alone as indicated.
Moral of story: The dogs working in therapy and programming at Dogwood exceed standards set for visiting dogs and strive to achieve the standards that are set for professionally trained assistance dogs. The therapists who co-treat with these skilled dogs have continuing education in animal assisted intervention and disability. Dogwood core staff and interns have completed occupational therapy degree programs, and dog training, handling and behavior continuing education. While we do our best to screen or evaluate and select dogs to participate in our programs, it is important that participants, their families, caregivers, case managers and clients understand that there are risks in participating in any program or activity involving dogs. We regularly have outside review of policies, procedures and the animals in our programs so we may improve programs with the most up to date information. However, animals are living beings that have responses and behaviors to environmental stimuli, people, and situations in different contexts. A number of puppies are in training in our clinic, for therapists and people with disabilities, and is part of our scope of work at Dogwood. The potential risks of participating in after school programs, animal assisted therapy, summer camps, training classes or any other activities with animals at Dogwood may include:
· Animals mouthing, not being able to take treats with a gentle mouth, slobbering on people, licking, snapping, biting or scratching
· Animals barking, howling, whining, growling, or any other vocalizing
· Animals jumping which results in potential to cause loss of balance or falls, bumping into people, knocking people over
· Animals or products used with animals may cause allergic reactions (dander, pollen on fur, saliva, food/wheat/peanut butter treats)
· Zoonotic disease transmission (parasites, bacteria, viruses, fungus, etc.), however, our dogs are on monthly preventative, and participate in regular veterinary care.
Dogwood is a member of Animal Assisted Intervention International, a non-profit organization that caters to people who partner with dogs in professional settings. Our standards are shared with Animal Assisted Intervention International.