Dogs as assistants for disabled people

Welcome to the web-site of “Dogs as assistants for disabled people” training center

Our main goal is to provide rehabilitation services to people with special needs with the help of trained dogs. We train guide dogs for blind people since 1999. We started training therapy dogs for children with special needs in 2003. Our services for people with visual loss and for children with disabilities are free of charge. The center receives such support as: private and corporate donations, grants and governmental subsidy. Our staff consists of professionals, who are devoted to their business. Many volunteers also support our work. They not only help us to save funds. They show a great example of love and unselfishness.

More about guide dogs

Guide dog is a unique method of rehabilitation for vision impaired person. Independence gained with a guide dogs helps vision impaired people to find work, friends, hobbies, get an education and resolve day-to-day challenges.

Dogs’ amazing abilities to remember routes that they walked and to find a way home have been noticed and used by people since a long time ago. Now the main task for a guide dog is to remember regular routes and take its visually impaired owner on them preventing him/her from being lost. Another task is to make such route safe.

Thanks to unique training methods a modern guide dog is very skilled. It is well adapted to work in a busy and noisy urban setting, where it takes its owner through crowded streets, protecting from collisions, warning of obstacles. During its training a dog is taught to take a person across roads, find stairs, a necessary door or a bench. Sometimes a vision impaired people stay at home for years until they get a guide dog. Rehabilitation of vision impaired people with the help of dogs positively affects their emotional state. It is important that a dog being a cheerful and an active creature helps vision impaired person to overcome his/her psychological problems. A guide dog is a link between a vision impaired person and a world of sighted people. By attracting positive attention of people around them a guide dog motivates strangers to be more attentive to its owner.

Team training

Once the guide dog passes the exam its trainer starts the most difficult part of his/her work – transfer of a guide dog to a vision impaired person. The team (blind person and a guide dog) is formed during the last stage of the guide dog training. We use information provided in questionnaires and given to us during our meetings with vision impaired people that are on our waiting list. This stage lasts for two weeks approximately. The process depends on each person’s abilities and skills.

During the training the team learns a number of main routes, practice commands of general obedience training. The dog gets used to its new owner. It is a very important period for the team, because during that period the foundation for their relationships is laid. It is important that the dog not only gets used to its new owner and loves him/her (this is never a problem!) but to see its owner as a leader. Dog has to obey and work the same way as the dog did with its trainer. A guide dog must combine both initiative and discipline both of which are vital for its work. A vision impaired person learns to understand his/her guide dog’s actions and to manage it.

The new owner also learns how to look after the dog, feeding and walking schedules. We teach them everything that a responsible and caring dog owner should know and do. We teach relatives of the guide dog owner (or his/her friends) how to help him/her correctly when learning new routes and when there are difficulties moving around independently.

The transfer of a guide dog ends when we are certain that the vision impaired person is fully able to do everything necessary to work with and look after the dog and the guide dog is doing its work well. We monitor the guide dogs’ future and provide all necessary assistance to owners.

Of course, this rehabilitation method is complicated and expensive, but in 60 years of the guide dog service in Russia (and almost 100 years in Europe) it proved its efficiency. Our waiting list also confirms this and we have new names added to it monthly.

We would like to add that guide dogs receive just as much love and care and their “jobless” relatives. Sophisticated work does not prevent our dogs from being happy and cheerful.

To continue our work and to develop this type of rehabilitation in Russia we need your help! We are thankful for any support.

Guide Dog Training Process

We purchase puppies or young Labradors and sometimes Golden Retrievers. Puppies are taken through meticulous testing, we only train dogs that are fully compliant with the requirements of guide dogs. Labradors live with volunteer families for a period until their training starts. You can learn more about it in “Volunteer Program”.

Main training starts when dogs are 12 months old. They are trained at our training base and on city routes that include all important training elements — various obstacles, markers, road crossings, etc. It is important that the dogs learn to work in an atmosphere filled with different stimuli. The dogs are trained by professionals, who that have many years of experience. Our standard training program consists of two parts: general obedience training and special guide dog training. In addition, we take into account wishes and certain particularities of each vision impaired person that we are training the dog for, introducing the necessary changes into its training. Guide dog’s training takes approximately 6 months. At the end of that period a guide dog has to pass an exam together with its trainer. We must ensure that the training is complete and the dog is ready to work with a vision impaired person. The exam consists of 2 parts: demonstration of general obedience training and walking a route that the dog is familiar with. During the exam the dog is wearing a special guide dog harness and its trainer is wearing blackout glasses that don’t let him/her see. It is necessary to make sure that the dog can work with a blind person.

Канистерапия или собаки-терапевты

More about therapy dogs

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 are relatively new in Russia and are actively developing.

We trained our first therapy dog in 2003. Today dog therapy is a separate project named “Sunny Dog”. All classes are conducted by a special education teacher 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 classes are attended by 70 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.

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. All therapy sessions are held by special education teacher or psychologist.

Since 2009 we have also been organizing workshops for professionals interested in dog therapy.

More about volunteer program

Puppies that we buy, raise and train are the future guide dogs for vision impaired people and therapy dogs for children with special needs.

We place puppies with volunteer families for the early stages of their development before they can be trained so that they grow in home environment, are well behaved, house trained, used to city life and, of course, receive love and care that they need.

We test and purchase puppies. When we purchase one we check our database of volunteers and chose the family that is most suited for the puppy.

So, you’ve decided to become a volunteer and raise a puppy for our center. We bring puppy (which is usually four to five months old) to you. It is either a Labrador or a Golden Retriever. The dog has been checked by a veterinarian, is healthy and vaccinated according to dog’s age. Our dog trainer tells you everything that you need to know about the puppy, its behavior, feeding, care, walks… and helps to set contact with the puppy.

Dog trainer will be visiting you weekly to train the puppy. The time for his/her visits will be convenient for you. Usually training sessions take place outside and last for one or two hours.

If you need help or a consultation at any time our dog trainer will be there for you. We are always in touch. The puppy will stay with you for about six months. When the puppy is 12 months old we will move it to our center. Here the dog will be trained for six months as a guide dog or a therapy dog. Thanks to your help the dog will be well socialized and ready for training.

Your duties as a volunteer
  • Walk the puppy three-four times a day provide a toilet-training. A young dog needs 2-3 daily walks.
  • Raise the dog in accordance with the recommendations of our dog trainer following simple rules.
  • Keep an eye on health and behavior of the dog and inform us about any changes.
  • Allow our dog trainer to take the puppy for weekly trainings.
Our obligations
  • We provide the puppy with everything it needs: food, equipment, toys, bowls, veterinary care, including a cage for you to be able to leave the puppy alone without risking any damage to your home.
  • We buy all the necessary things or cover your expenses. Of course, we would not mind if you take some of the expenses onto yourselves.
  • We advise and provide practical help with raising and care. We will take the puppy for the time of your holiday, business trip or illness.
Why you need it
  • You are a kind and socially responsible person that wants to do something good and can do it.
  • You love dogs but can’t have one of your own at the moment.
  • You are not sure if you will be able to live with a dog but your children are begging you to get one. This is a good way to check if you can.
  • You want your children to know first hand about charity and caring for others, about helping people in need.
  • You are…a vain person and are going to be proud that you’ve raised such an amazing and unusual dog. In the end, how many guide dogs have your friends met?

Whatever the reason for you to become a volunteer for our center you will have a warm memory about a good deed and, of course, the most sincere and deep gratitude of a person with special needs that will receive dog, raised with your help.

Important! We maintain control over the dog’s future and the conditions in which it lives. If you want we can keep you informed about the dog you raised.

If you want to participate in the program, please fill in the application form for and email it to us.