Therapy Dogs for Special Needs Children

Dog Therapy is a rehabilitation method that enhances the wellbeing of children with special needs. It is most effective in conjunction with other rehabilitation and medical interventions.
Dog therapy is not a replacement for medical treatment!
Therapy dogs are a unique rehabilitation method for children with special needs. It is aimed at solving problems of integration and social adaptation of children with special needs. Such programs have a long history abroad but it is relatively new in Russia and is actively developing.

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We trained our first Therapy Dog in 2003. Today Dog Therapy is a separate project “The Sunny Dog”. All classes are conducted by a speech pathologist and a psychologist as well as 4 specially trained volunteers. They work with 8 dogs that have been taken through a year long training course in our Centre. A first consultation is done by a child neurologist. An individual class program is based on a child’s diagnosis, his/her condition and medical records provided by the child’s parents. The program is adjusted following results reached. At the moment the classes are attended by 60 children with diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, oligophrenia, autism, delays in psychological and speech development, vision or hearing impaired, various somatic conditions. Currently in our country Dog Therapy does not have an official status or legally binding criteria for selecting, training or use of Therapy Dogs, or training of specialists in the area. In our work we follow our Dog Therapy Code of Ethics.

For us Dog Therapy means work with specially trained dogs that is aimed at correction, rehabilitation and social adaptation of children with special needs. Such work includes specifically aimed actions and exercises that imply direct contact of a child with a dog under the guidance of a specialist.Barer

Dogs that are intended for therapy work are tested thoroughly and are then taught general obedience and special training course. They have to pass exams in accordance with the requirements of the Centre and then have to take “apprenticeship course” with The Sunny Dog group.

We would like to specifically note that our dog trainers never work directly with children without a preliminary consultation and control from a speech pathologist or psychologist.

Since 2009 we have also been organising seminars for professionals interested in Dog Therapy.