10 Things I Learned About Dogs in 2021

Dogs have been around us for what seems like forever. We have grown and developed with them by our sides. In these modern times, we live with them as pets; they work with us; we rely on them. We even call them family! And because of this proximity, we often think that we know everything about them. When I take a moment to stop and think back over 2021, it fascinates me to realise how much I have learned about dogs over this last year. It’s a humbling revelation: you think you know all there is to know about dogs, only to have a new insight gob smack me. Some new understanding came through the eyes of experts, whereas other pieces of knowledge were natural revelations. Here are 10 things I have learned:

1- Puppies can be worth more than gold

This year, suddenly puppies were at a premium. Shelters couldn’t keep up with the demand for puppies, and people were adopting adult dogs instead. Which is a good thing. They wanted canine companionship during the pandemic. Some people had never wanted a dog before, citing lack of time, commitment to work and travel, and the general business of their lives as reasons. But with Covid-19 confinement those excuses flew out the window. Now they were at home, and many were all alone. So, they started looking around for puppies. Mini and teacup-sized Poodles, French Bulldogs, Jack Russell Terriers… breeders of small-sized dogs such as these were doubling their prices. But at least you know what you’re getting from a reliable breeder. Many people took the time and patience to do their research. However, many others were buying Border Collies or other in-demand breeds for next to nothing from nefarious breeders announcing on local buy and sell platforms. I think of 2021 and I imagine flying puppies, taking off as soon as they can leave their mother. Now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased, will 2022 be the year for record numbers of abandoned dogs? I sincerely hope not.

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

2- Don’t sterilise them too early

Depending on where you live (or your veterinarian’s or behaviourist’s knowledge base), they may advise you to sterilise your dog from between two months to one and a half years. Certainly, if you adopted from a shelter, your new dog comes to you neutered or spayed. Or you agree to get the job done as soon as possible. I used to think that male dogs, especially the volatile or wacky 9–12-month-old dogs, stood to benefit from a reduction in their hormone levels. And that we should spay females, to make their owners’ lives easier and for the prevention of unwanted litters, soon after their first heat. Turns out I was probably wrong. New studies prove that early sterilisation (early being defined as before 14 months) can cause a higher incidence of behavioural problems. And that sterilisation before their juvenile bodies have time to develop fully means a compromise in their physical health as well.

3-Let dogs sort out their own tiffs

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I used to micro-manage my dogs’ interactions. I’m talking about the six dogs that live in my house, that have been together for years. The five males and one female that share beds, bowls, balls and, of course, my esteemed affection. This “helicopter parenting” is a throwback from an earlier household configuration, when one cherished adopted male became deeply offended at the sudden appearance of a standard poodle puppy. Upon entering adolescence, the poodle took on a “macho” presence, and the race was on. Resentment reigned, battles ensued, and it left us with no alternative but to have the dogs cohabitate under a “one door open, one gate closed” policy. (For the uninitiated, this means you take great care to keep the dogs from ever meeting each other face to face. Not an easy way to live.) So, as a result, I’m wary of dog-dog reactions at close quarters, when shared resources prevail. But early this year I heard the ethologist Roger Abrantes point out that dogs can sort out these interactions on their own; most often than not, one of them backs out of a fight. It’s a case of pure evolutionary survival. I was working at my desk when I heard two medium-sized dogs start a rumble over a coveted bone. Instinctively, I jumped out of my chair. But this time, instead of breaking them apart, I simply observed their interaction. Poodle looked at me as if to say, “Aren’t you going to do something?”. Spanish Water Dog slowly backed away from the bone he’d been trying to steal. Tension reigned, probably because they were waiting for ME to do something. I turned around and walked away, thanking Dr. Abrantes for his wisdom. I haven’t felt the need to intervene since.

Photo by David Taffet on Unsplash

4-A ridiculously lazy, laid-back Labrador Retriever capable of creating mayhem, can be an excellent AD for a child with ASD

I know several crazy Labradors. This one, Kody, is three years old (which in Lab years means he’s barely out of his teens). He’s overly sociable and greets everyone like they’re his long, lost friend. When the person is someone he knows well, he greets them by jumping up and down excitedly; it’s as if he were bouncing on a trampoline. For any 45 kg dog, this is quite an impressive feat, but coming from a slobbery, grinning lab, this greeting elicits a horrified fascination.

But luckily this Lab not only has an “on” button, but he also has a natural propensity to chill. At home, once regulatory greetings or feeding time or tummy scratching sessions have passed, he hunkers down on the floor and snores. As they say, if he weren’t snoring, “there would be no dog at all”.

This “on-off” switch makes him an excellent dog for the family’s little girl, an 11-year-old with ASD. When she musters confidence and interacts with him under her mother’s encouragement, he bounces up from his snooze and waits for her to brush him, stroke him or offer him food. He is the model of patience. Ask him to work, and he activates himself immediately. Be it walking by your side, sitting at crosswalks and streetlights, or biding his time while you shop… he knows what he must do and exercises his tasks to perfection.

This Lab and his little girl will soon gain accreditation as an assistance-dog unit. I can’t wait. But in the meantime, it’s a pleasure to see an impossibly crazy Lab learn the ropes.

5-Dogs learn our language. (But, sadly, we rarely bother to learn theirs.)

Dogs have a million ways of communicating with us. They use a wide variety of facial movements, body language, and vocalisations to let us know how they feel. They have no choice but to express themselves; what you see is what they feel. The problem is, we are total crap at reading these messages. We look at them and see what we want to see. We humanise them, so much you’d think we’re talking about children instead of dogs. That’s why it’s nice to hear stories of dogs going to great lengths to get through to us. The other day, Wendy’s antics amazed her owner. Wendy is a Border Collie-Catalan Sheepdog mix who lives with a woman in her eighties. Wendy loves tennis balls, but like most dogs, she can’t always keep them under control. So Fina has been scooping wayward balls out from under her furniture for 5 years. It usually goes like this: Ball rolls under something out of Wendy’s reach. Wendy stares intently into the void, whines a little, and her body quivers. Eventually, Fina gets the message, pulls out a long shoehorn that sits in a vase, sweeps the floor under the furniture, and dislodges a ball. Sometimes two. The other day, Fina didn’t feel like getting up. Her hips hurt, and she didn’t want to hobble over to the dresser, bend over in search of a ball. She’d cleaned the bedroom that day and was certain there wasn’t a ball there. No sweetie, she said. Are you playing games with me today? Fina told Wendy to give it up already because there was no ball there, and she went back to her book. But Wendy wouldn’t let it go. She stared, she whined, she quivered. Nope. Occasionally, Wendy would go up to Fina and stare at her, in a bid for attention. After repeating this pattern to no avail, Wendy then did something remarkable. She went up to the vase, pulled out the long shoehorn, and brought it over to Fina. This is what you need, she seemed to say. Fina could no longer ignore her; she had to play along. So Fina got up, and with an exaggerated swoosh, slid the shoehorn across the floor under the dresser. To her surprise, a dusty ball rolled out. Wendy grabbed it triumphantly and pranced off. Fina swears she also threw her an ‘I told you so’ look as she walked away.

Photo by Shawn Ho on Unsplash

6-Dogs can break our heart

I called my sister to let her know we had lost our beloved poodle. We had put him to sleep the month before. Sam was 13 years old when he died, which is a good old age for Standard Poodles. Unlike the other dogs in my house, my sister knew our sweet boy personally. I stayed at her house when I flew home to Canada to pick him up from the breeder. And she knew how much he meant to me, how much we’d done together; she’d heard the training stories, had seen the Facebook posts and the photos of our road trips together. My sister had also lost one of her dogs not long before. A nice little cockapoo, about 6 years old. My sister is a tough, stoical cookie. So, I didn’t expect her to cry when she told me about losing little Doogie. “I can’t understand it. It’s not the first time I’ve had to put a dog down. But I just can’t get over it. I guess it’s because I’m getting old.” Wait, hold on, I said. I know just how you feel. Like her, losing Sam had hit me hard, and I knew it would take me years to stop feeling the pain. But neither she nor I were to blame. And no, it has nothing to do with our age. Her Doogie, and my Sam, were what one of my oldest friends calls the “heart dog”, the dogs that wiggle their way into the far reaches of your soul and refuse to leave. The ones that seize your imagination, rendering it impossible for any other canine companion to compete. Those beloved “heart dogs” that can break yours to pieces.

7-Dogs put up with a lot of our crap

Christmas is around the corner. People are hauling out the decorations and scrambling through street markets or big box stores for the perfect tree, dazzling lights and jolly ornaments. It’s festive, cheerful and I love it. What I dread is the growing number of photos of pets that festoon social media platforms. Those cute pictures with Bobby the pointer or Max the cat wearing a red and green snow-scene festooned sweater. Not to mention the headbands with reindeer antlers, Christmas baubles or stars shooting out from the dog’s head. Sitting dog stares at the camera with a sweet baleful look. Snap! And the dog suddenly becomes the laughingstock of Facebook.

I vowed early on never to do that to my dogs; Never have and never will.

However, the other day I met a little black poodle on the street. I vaguely know her people. The weather was brisk, and they had splurged on a new sweater for her. A plucky blue sweater with Doraemon’s face on the back. Doraemon! I love Doraemon. I once had a Doraemon pillow, a Doraemon pencil case, a Doraemon ice crusher… you get the picture. And now here’s his face adorning a poodle, innocently unaware of my laughter. The next day, I got the same sweater for my poodle. Wear it proudly, my boy!

Photo by Anderson Ribeiro on Unsplash

8-Dogs lose their brains when they hit adolescence

Technically, adolescence is the transition from childhood to adulthood. It may have early, middle, and late phases, each phase with its own physical and psychological changes. It occurs from between 6-9 months in males, and 6-16 months in females. Smaller dogs reach adolescence earlier than larger dogs.

Well, that’s what science says, but we all know what adolescence REALLY means. It’s that time of life when your sweet, compliant puppy, once so eager to learn and obey, transforms into a gangly, barking, defiant, rebellious monster that can’t remember a single thing you’ve taught him. It’s painful to experience, and it’s the reason many dogs of that age show up in shelters. Relinquished by people who could not wait out this challenging time. Because that’s what you must do. Practice patience. And give these other strategies for coping a try:

· Recognising and eliminating (if possible) stress factors in the dog’s life.

· Planning any neutering for a later stage, when the dog has gone through physical and psychological changes that come with adolescence. Doing it too early can cause behavioural problems later.

· Give the dog correct exercise for size and physiology—but don’t overdo it! Running around and chasing other dogs, balls etc. may cause more stress-related reactions than good.

· Train your dog. But be sure to train according to their maturity and, above all, train using positive reinforcement methods. Aversive training can have a detrimental effect on their behaviour, as well as weaken the bond you have with your dog.

· Provide enrichment opportunities. Slow walks that allow the dog to observe, smell, walk on different surfaces and heights. Scent work games and/or training.

· Let them sleep. Just like humans, dogs need to sleep comfortably and for long periods of time. Sleep restores the brain and reduces stress. Especially in adolescents.

Photo by Kojirou Sasaki on Unsplash

9-Dogs feel immense disappointment

This occurred to me one evening as we were preparing to go out to dinner with friends. Typically, our dogs get excited when we get up from the desk or the sofa and become more active. What’s up, they think, in anticipation of being included in the next course of events. But, instead of us starting a fun activity, they watch as we become absorbed in the preparation routine. We put on different clothes, shoes, and perfume, ignoring the dogs as we call out to each other, “Got the keys?” “Did you lock the back door?”, “Isn’t my coat back from the cleaners?” While we move about in self-absorbed intent, the dogs recognise a pattern. And slowly their mood dampens. They seem to freeze, eyes reflecting a growing apprehension. Long before I noticed their reactions, they had memorised the routine and knew exactly what was coming next: we were about to go out and leave them all by themselves. It’s hard not to call the look in their eyes, their entire mute reproach, a sign they were feeling let down.

Now for an even sadder story. My older brother passed away recently. He had a heart attack at home, entered the hospital and died a few weeks later. During the first weeks, his faithful herding dog stayed by the front door, expecting him to walk back through the door at any moment. He’d come to her when my sister-in-saw called, but return to his post immediately. Gradually, he began to leave the door for periods of time, but he still seemed to be waiting for a sign. It wasn’t until a few weeks after my brother’s passing that the dog began to seek company by my sister-in-law’s side.

Yes, dogs can feel disappointment—even heartbreak—big time.

Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash

10-Dogs love (and need) slow walks

When the average person thinks of dogs, they think of action. They picture them running, jumping, chasing balls, or jogging alongside a bicycle. “Dogs need exercise!” they say. “They need to get that energy out of their system.”

Well yes, dogs need exercise. Like people, the “use it or lose it” principal rules. They need to exercise their muscles. They also benefit from getting outside, to let their five senses immerse in the outside world.

But they don’t need to hurry. In fact, they relish in the chance to walk along slowly, nose to the ground, exploring the earth rich with pungent smells. Dogs love to use their noses. They delight in plunging their muzzles into piles of leaves. Or lifting their heads to catch a whiff of other animals’ presence. Changing surfaces beneath their paws stimulates them. They perk up to fresh sounds and avoiding obstacles becomes part of the game.

This year I welcomed this idea. To challenge myself on how much variety I could find within our usual walking time. Some days, I let the dogs lead me. Other days, I steered them towards sources of environmental delights. Parking lots, the proximity of garbage bins, low-slung hedges along pathways frequented by other dogs… these are areas where smells abound. I let the dogs sniff and explore, allowing them to move their bodies loosely in random patterns directed by their noses. And by the time we get home, they are far more relaxed, refreshed and exercised than any brisk walk would achieve.

Shelter Dogs in Animal Assisted Interventions

The original Spanish-language version of this post first appeared in Animales Que Suman. https://animalesquesuman.com/terapia-perros-protectoras/

Maybe you’re taking a course in Animal Assisted Interventions and you’re looking for your future therapy dog. Or you’re volunteering at a shelter full of dogs and it occurs to you that they could work in AAI. In the meantime, you know there are people in nursing homes who would love to have a visit from a friendly dog. A fantastic idea comes to mind – wouldn’t it be great to take a dog from a shelter for a few hours and visit an institution? It can only be a win-win situation, right?

What is the AAI with shelter dogs and how does it work? 

First, a background story: Some time ago, three women contacted our association. They were involved in a therapy dog project, it was going reasonably well, but they had run out of things to do in the sessions. Could we help them with some creative ideas to improve their project? We love helping beginners in AAI, so we agreed to meet.

We went to the meeting armed with a presentation highlighting a myriad of activities adaptable to any AAI session. The activities were tailored to a wide variety of projects and were based on a combination of the handler’s skills with the dog’s character and abilities. Supporting the activity plans was a list of specially created toys, objects, and tools to enrich the sessions. All designed to motivate clients and help the centre’s education or health professional achieve their therapeutic goals, be they cognitive, physical, or emotional.

The women explained that the dogs were not their own, but lived in a shelter. One day a week they would go to the shelter, take three dogs out and visit a nearby nursing home. The nursing home residents were happy to pet the dogs, brush them and throw them a ball. But the encounters were quickly becoming routine, and the women felt the need to liven up the sessions a bit. What could they do, given that the dogs had virtually no skills? Sometimes it was all they could do to keep the dogs calm during the visits.

From their point of view, it was a reasonable question. Disguising our alarm, we questioned them further. Before entering the nursing home, were the dogs bathed or, at the very least, well brushed? Were dirty collars replaced with clean ones? Were the dogs properly exercised before each session? And finally, had the women taken any courses on Animal Assisted Intervention?

The answer to all these questions was no. Seeing that the meeting was much more complex than we had imagined, we asked them to consider other points before we discussed creativity. This led to a lively discussion about hygiene practices, the need for protocols, and the importance of selecting the right dog for visits. We did not have time to delve into such topics as how to ensure the health and well-being of all project participants, so we recommended that the women get some AAI training. 

Shelter dogs and AAI – What does it mean?

The participation of shelter dogs in AAI means that dogs living in shelters or in temporary foster care are actively involved in therapeutic work. On a day-to-day basis the dogs do not have a single person looking out for their interests but are cared for by a network of people.

The dogs meet people living, studying and/or receiving treatment in various institutions, such as hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers or correctional institutions. As in any AAI project, the encounters are designed to help reach educational, therapeutic, or recreational objectives. Sessions can be as basic as gentle visits that require little action on the part of the dog, activities as simple as brushing, stroking, or playing. Because the dog comes from a shelter, emphasis is often placed on the dog’s unique situation. Many clients are aware that they are helping improve the likelihood that the dog will be adopted.

Within the scope of AAI projects in general, it is an attractive working model, as it fulfills two objectives: the therapeutic or entertainment needs of the client group are enriched. And the dogs get the chance to interact positively with the world at large.

Therefore, the women who consulted us were correct in their original premises:

– Shelter dogs often lead sedentary and boring lives inside. By participating in an AAI project, they are given the opportunity for physical and social contact from people they would otherwise never meet.

– The clients – and especially those living in isolation – can interact with a warm, caring, non-judgmental living being whose principal goal is to be with people. 

– Dogs receive positive features in their profiles: “This dog engages in a positive way with a vulnerable population. “This makes it more attractive in the eyes of prospective adopters.

– The people involved in the project often know the dogs’ history. This helps to create a feeling of empathy towards them. Often, the dogs’ situation mirrors their own and people in confinement, for example, can emotionally identify with the dog’s circumstances.

Shelter Dogs and AAI – Project Types

Shelter dogs participating in AAI projects generally participate within two working models:

– Dogs leave the shelter and visit institutions. A suitable dog may participate on a regular basis – weekly visits, for example. Or there may be a rotation of dogs to give many of them the opportunity to socialise outside the shelter. Dogs are often required to participate in types of activities similar to a dog living with their handler. However, shelter dogs may not have had the opportunity to be trained for their role within AAI activities.

– People come to the shelter in small groups, and sessions take place in or near the shelter. Most often, a dog works with only one participant in the group. Many times, the emotional and physical needs of the dogs are highlighted within the project. Activities may focus on physical contact, play, walks or training, with the goal of improving the dogs’ adoption prospects in mind. There may be a marked structure, like group classes in a dog training school, which offers the human participant the opportunity to learn how to train a dog.

Shelter dogs in AAI projects: are the key elements in place?

When it comes to working with shelter dogs in AAI environments, there are some key ingredients that inevitably fall short of the ideal. This means that handlers must equip the project with special protocols to compensate for the shortcomings: 

The human-dog bond

Unlike a dog that lives as a family member within its handler’s home, a shelter dog does not have a person to serve as a key reference figure. He can and often does form an attachment to the person working with him in the AAI environment, but the quality of this attachment – relative to the demands of their shared task – can come into question. Can the dog feel comfortable working in an intense environment with a person with whom he may or may not have a positive bond?

The question of hygiene

This point is of great importance in any AAI project. All AAI dogs must be healthy, clean, free of parasites and in excellent shape on the day of the session. It is much easier to answer this need when the dog lives with the handler. It is not so easy when the dog is one of many within a shelter, and when its welfare depends on the management structure of the shelter.

In the case of shelter dogs that visit institutions and centres, AAI volunteers may not have time to carefully groom the dog before entering the facility. In addition, the dog may not be feeling very well that day, and without careful observation this may go unnoticed.

Is the dog having a good time?

A competent handler knows when your dog is getting tired of the session. She knows which people she works well with, and which groups are best avoided. (This is why many AAI handlers have more than one working dog). But in the case of shelters, unless they have had the opportunity to get to know the dogs well, they can’t be sure if the dog will thrive and shine in each situation, until they try it.

And, likewise, an AAI handler knows when her dog is feeling stressed. She knows what to do to prevent or alleviate any psychological influence the dog may feel and knows how long it will take her dog to recover from each session. However, shelter dogs are often taken back to the shelter, put in their cage, and left to fend for themselves. Without any decompression activity, they must recuperate on their own.

Shelter Dogs and AAI – Best Practices

– It is possible to create, develop and successfully implement AAI projects with shelter dogs. Selection of the dog(s) is important and involves extensive character testing and experience on the part of the handlers. Even if you do not live with the dog, you should know your working partner well.

– All dogs that come to the institutions must work under strict hygiene and health protocols, whether they come from shelters or live with people full time. There is no excuse for an unclean and possibly unhealthy dog to meet with people who may be in a compromised state of health.

– In the case of people who visit shelters to participate in IAA activities, they are assumed to be in good health and robust enough to spend time in a shelter environment. If not, they should refrain. And even then, the dogs should be clean, free of parasites and well balanced psychologically.

– Whether the dog is visiting an institution or receiving visits by people from an institution, the dog should be well balanced and relatively stress-free. It should have no history of aggression directed at people and should be well socialised. It should enjoy participation and not have to endure excessive stress.

And finally….

What became of the three women who came for a consultation? They left with a new understanding of the complexities of AAI. We were able to provide new creative ideas that resulted in an enriched project. And one of the women signed up for our AAI course, which led her to break new ground in other AAI settings and with a wide range of individuals.

“Growing up with Puppy” – an Animal Assisted Education Model.

The original Spanish article was written for the Animales Que Suman website. You can find it at https://animalesquesuman.com/cachorro-viene-a-clase/

I walk into the classroom full of 6-year-olds and instantly feel the buzz of pent-up excitement. They murmur and nudge each other, eyes sparkling with curiosity. They focus on my little companion, the puppy who walks happily by my side. For the children, it is an incredible thing, a puppy in their classroom! The children are caught between the excitement of a canine visit and the need to follow their teacher’s instructions. They can barely control the excitement of seeing their guest again.

Daisuke, the puppy, and I are visiting a 2nd grade class at Mercè Rodoreda Primary School in Barcelona, as part of a project called “Growing up with Daisuke”. The reasons for doing Animal Assisted Education (AAE) and, above all, the benefits of pairing children with dogs in an educational setting are well documented. Cynthia Orive’s post (https://animalesquesuman.com/perro-en-clase/) explains how a dog can facilitate the educational process by acting as a motivator. The dog’s collaboration is sincere and unbiased, inviting children to take part, offer their opinions and ideas, and open to learning. But our AAE model, under the umbrella name “Growing up with Puppy”, goes further. The children and a puppy come together over a long period, allowing them to create a foundation of mutual support that enables them to learn valuable skills.

The “Growing up with Puppy” model follows a simple premise: a puppy and an AAI practitioner visit a classroom once a month for 8 or 9 months, coinciding with the school year. When the project starts in September, the puppy is between 4 and 6 months old. (The starting age depends on the breed, the size of the puppy, its maturity level and its socialisation history.) Throughout the project – from the beginning of the school year to the end – the puppy develops into a 12 to 14-month-old dog. He matures in the eyes of the children, acquiring skills and self-confidence, but always maintaining his natural exuberance. The nature of his interactions with children increases in complexity as the puppy matures. At first, he is a restless puppy ready to play. But by late spring, he has learned to be an enthusiastic collaborator in structured activities.

We aim to help the children to gain emotional maturity while enjoying the visits. Therefore, the teaching method revolves around a series of vital puppy-related themes that translate to the pupils’ own experiences. Each monthly visit follows a designated theme, which is introduced to the children through a story and/or related activities. The children express their feelings and opinions about the situations the puppy encounters in each story as he learns to cope with the world. In doing so, we encourage them to navigate their own emotions within the context of the theme.

Examples of the many topics include civility and coexistence; health and hygiene; families and friendship; sexuality and reproduction; food and nutrition; and social challenges and barriers. The themes are deliberately open-ended and broad, and are easily adaptable to situations both human and canine. We present topics in an age-appropriate way, with material created according to the abilities and interests of the pupils. Throughout the project, the pupils share what “growing up” means to them. In effect, they grow along with the puppy.

Here is an example of one of Daisuke’s visits to a 2nd grade class at Mercè Rodoreda School, at the beginning of the project. The general theme is “civicism and coexistence”. I start with a story about Daisuke and I on a walk. In the streets and parks, we find various objects, some of them new and fascinating from a puppy’s point of view. Cigarette butts, empty bottles, tissues – things that people had simply thrown on the ground. I explain to the children that I must teach Daisuke not to pick anything up with his mouth. “Not even that half-eaten sandwich!” laments Daisuke in the story. At the end of the story, Daisuke receives a dog treat because he could leave the litter on the ground. I explain how these objects puzzled Daisuke. This opens the door to the children’s opinions. I ask them what they notice when they walk in the street, which leads to a discussion about civicism and our role in keeping public spaces clean and safe. Then, changing the subject a bit, I tell the children where and when Daisuke does his “business” during walks, and how people walking their dogs should be careful to keep the pavements and parks clean. I explain the importance of using poop bags and a water bottle to keep the street clean. Each child receives a poop bag, and I bring out a rubber “poop” purchased at a joke shop. Amidst laughter and pushing and shoving, the children take turns picking it up with the bag.

And what is Daisuke doing while I tell the story? Like the puppy he is, he plays or chews on a toy. Or he goes up to greet the children (led by an assistant). In the “Growing up with a Puppy” model, we introduce a natural approach from the beginning. Neither the practitioner nor the puppy ever engages in an activity that enters the realm of pure entertainment. Of course, as he grows, the puppy is learning basic obedience and some tricks as part of his general education. Thus, as the months pass and the puppy matures, I introduce more structured and interactive activities into the project.

The broad themes of each month give this model of AAE extraordinary flexibility. We can adapt each project to suit pupils from the youngest to the teenagers. Within the same ‘civility and coexistence’ theme, for example, older pupils discuss issues such as the responsibilities of dog ownership, how to keep order in the classroom, or sharing space in their homes. A charming puppy makes it easy to address any topic at any age. With the littler ones, just walking into a classroom with a puppy is enough to capture their attention. But it works even better among adolescents; puppy appeal helps you overcome the “tell me what I don’t know” attitude of cynical boredom that seems to creep in as they grow into teens.

The “Growing Up with Puppy” model of AAE comes with built-in limitations, which makes opportunities to carry out projects few. A well-balanced puppy, who doesn’t mind interacting with a large group of children, is essential. The school must be on board, of course, and the full and proactive cooperation of the class teacher enriches the project. Because of the size of the class and the maturity level of the puppy, we keep the sessions short.

But “Growing with Puppy” is a model inspired by the natural empathy between children and puppies and the perception of shared experiences as they grow and learn. This model of AAE is magically simple: we pair puppies with children within a classroom. But the success of each individual project depends on the extra, singular details. It is an AAE model for people willing to flex their creative muscles throughout the entire project, from the detailed preparation to the end of the school year, when puppy and children say goodbye. We would love to hear from AAI practitioners who have used this model to tell us what they think of the experience and how the children have benefited from “growing up with a puppy”.

Dog Links: Meet Elvis the Airedale

A charming bon vivant that wins hearts wherever he wanders. Estefanía Alvarez tells us what life is like with their sparky pet.

He’s named after Elvis Presley—Juan and I are fans. We’d had a dog called Popeye and considered calling him Brutus, but it didn’t quite fit. But our Spanish Water Dog Ollie is named after Popeye’s girlfriend, Olive.

It didn’t seem right to keep an active dog in an apartment, so we spent a lot of time with him outdoors, in parks, in dog runs, on the street. It was hard on our schedules, but we’re glad we did it. He’s a gentleman with everyone.

It’s a clever breed; they keep you on your toes. Sure, Elvis will follow you everywhere, but he’s not likely to go running with you. He needs to be motivated, to know why he’s doing something. Unlike a Labrador, for example, who simply wants to be with you. Elvis wants to cooperate, but he needs to know what comes next, what the catch is. The breed is special like that; they don’t follow you blindly. You’ve got to know dogs, otherwise they try to pull the wool over your eyes.

We can’t keep him out of the kitchen. When we moved to our current house, he picked up the bad habit of stealing food. Bits of food missing here and there. One day, he even stole a birthday cake my sister-in-law had brought over! I think the change of house threw him off. So, we made the kitchen off limits to the dogs. Ollie respects this, but Elvis will sneak in at the first chance.

He’s never been sick, but when he was a puppy, he refused all dry pet food and had constant diarrhea. We’d switch brands, and things would improve for a while. But then it would start over again. He kept getting skinnier. This went on for his first year until we switched to raw food. Once we changed the diet, the problem went away.

I don’t eat meat, but this doesn’t extend to our dogs. I tried replacing meat with beans, but they got bloated and gassy. Dogs need meat; they have the teeth for it—but not me. Our own fridge can’t hold all their food too; they’ve got their own fridge now.

You can’t find many Airedales in this part of Spain. We’ve taught Elvis the basics, like sit, down, come, and how to fetch a ball. Maybe we should have taken up Agility or something like that. To take advantage of his talents and popularise the breed. But it’s too late, probably; our Elvis is a real homebody.

‘Comedian’ is the word I’d use to describe him. He’s full of pep, always poking his nose into things, and so inquisitive about whatever and whoever he encounters.

We lost him once. We went to spend Christmas with my brother in Sierra de Cazorla. The whole family rented a big house, and it was cold and snowing when we arrived. What with all the confusion, it took a moment to realise that Elvis wasn’t around. We started calling him and searching everywhere and finally we found him in the backyard pool, of all places! The water hadn’t frozen, and he’d slipped in. I doubt it was intentional; Elvis doesn’t like water. My guess is he got excited by all the wildlife smells; leaves covered the ground, and he probably followed his nose right into the pool. I laugh now when I recall his expression when we found him. It was a poem! So scared and clueless.

He’s an adventurer, fearless in a natural environment. He’s even confronted a wild boar in the mountain. The breed is a working dog, like for the police in Scotland; here in Spain they help hunt for wild boar.

We’re so happy with Elvis. He may have started out as a skinny black puppy, but he’s turned into our handsome, fun-loving boy.

TWISTED! Life with Dogs — David Arias Fitch

illustration David Arias Fitch
illustration David Arias Fitch
illustration David Arias Fitch

I don’t have a dog, and neither do my friends. But I enjoy watching other people’s dogs. I think that people are a dog’s best friend – when a person approaches a dog they are much happier than when a pigeon approaches them, for example. If I had a dog I would go with him on excursions, picnics, to the movies … I’d do as much as possible. It’ll be nice to share everything, more or less, with my future dog.

David Arias Fitch, illustrator https://www.instagram.com/davidariasfitch/

Belén García Bonds with Shelter Dogs

I started visiting the Center d’Acollida d’Animals de Barcelona (CAACB, Barcelona Animal Refuge Centre) in the summer of 2010 while studying biology at university. I became a regular volunteer in 2013, about the time I learned how to train dogs.

We always had dogs at home, but when I lived on my own in Barcelona, I missed them terribly. Being a volunteer helped fill that void.

Belén and Balu, photo by Santos Román @retratista_animal

Volunteering is addictive. You get attached to some dogs and begin to feel for them; they weigh on your mind if you can’t make it there.

Each volunteer deals with it as best they can. It’s a unique, personal experience—everyone lives it differently. I know several volunteers who have stopped coming because the situation overwhelms them, or others who became sad when a dog they bonded with left. Most can manage the difficulties.

People may try to avoid becoming attached to a dog. Forging a bond with a dog doesn’t bother me. That’s what motivates me to continue.

How can you help shelter dogs? It’s simple, just put yourself out there, take action. Share information on social media, for example. Some see the dogs profiled on Facebook; they share the information and that helps. Sometimes they find homes and you think, of the 10 cases that I have shared today, two dogs have found a home. Great, I’ll continue sharing information. Another way to help is to volunteer, of course. Show up and dedicate your time. You leave there knowing you have given them quality time and have contributed something to their lives. People must do it according to their skills; there are people who don’t know how to manage it. Everyone must find a way that makes them feel good and feel helpful, without getting depressed or down. But the goal is always the same: to find them a home. The dogs must leave the shelter.

Maybe you don’t want to be in direct contact with cases but want to do something for animals. You could become a vegan, which is also a way to contribute indirectly. Some people volunteer in administration, working in logistics. Or involve themselves with animal rights movements. If you are an expert in a required field, you can be an advisor. For example, you may be an expert on animal abuse. There are thousands of ways to help.

Shelter dogs bond quickly with a person. Walk the same dog two or three times and he remembers you. If he’s happy to see you when he doesn’t know you, imagine what happens after you take him out of his cage a few times. There are also cases where you develop a stronger connection … I developed a crush on one dog from day one! Now, every time I go to the shelter, I save the last 10 minutes for him alone. You can have a healthy bond with a shelter dog. But keep in mind, the dog should be also bonding with other people, not just you.

Occasionally there are cases when the dog enters the shelter very fearful and must learn to trust people. At first one person gains his trust. It can be a gigantic step. When one person wins his trust, then another must do the same. Then another, and so on until, little by little, he trusts people. These are small steps, but the dog benefits immensely. This is the ideal scenario. Of course, there are dogs in the shelter which are walked by only one volunteer. However, problems arise when there is the possibility of adoption. I understand that there are dogs that, if it were not for the one person taking him out for his walk, would never leave the cage. But ideally, they learn to be confident with many people.

Belén and Balu, photo by Santos Román @retratista_animal

I adopted Balu in September 2016. He entered the centre when he was 6 months old, and I thought, what a beautiful dog! I was sure it would be one of those cases where someone snaps up the dog quickly. Myself, I thought I’d adopt an elderly dog. But we had a connection. I guess the dog chooses you. I would see him every week during his stay – about a month and a half – but tell myself he’ll be going soon. He had come in with another dog – his brother, I think – who soon left and Balu was on his own. Once I went into his cage to spend time with him, and he quietly fell asleep in my lap. Not once in four years as a volunteer had that happened to me. There he was, snoring away. Someone adopted him, but they returned him 24 hours later. I was there the day they brought him back and when I saw him back in the cage, and saw him… Well, I just couldn’t resist anymore. I saw that poor, lost look they get when they’re back in the same place. You can’t understand it until you see it. Besides that, the poor boy had a fever, he was sick, and I couldn’t bear to look at his sad face. I adopted him that same day.

Belén and Balu, photo by Santos Román @retratista_animal

The idea of ​​21 Hogares (21 Homes) is to help the “invisible” dogs, those that have been in the shelter for a long time. I met a photographer who volunteered at a shelter. She told me she took pictures of the dogs and of their success rate. After disseminating their picture, people adopted them within days. That was a revelation and the start of an initiative. Together with Emma Infante (of Futur Animal), we worked on the idea. Soon, more people and more shelters became involved, and we created a group, of which I am a spokesperson.

We’re outraged that a dog can live in a cage for 8 years. They become invisible. The idea behind photographing them is to capture their appeal in a quality image. This awakens compassion in people; it helps people connect. Instead of focusing on sorrow, people see them in a positive light. We focus on their tender qualities, their cheerful natures. Unfortunately, it just so happens that most fall under the label of potentially dangerous dogs, according to the breed-specific law. Or they’re older dogs—many are between 8 and 13 years old. There are also younger dogs who don’t fall under breed-specific legislation but who have been in the shelter for many years. These are dogs that people don’t see, who go unnoticed. A mystery, really, and sad.

We made a list of those that we consider urgent, who we’d like to see adopted as soon as possible, and there were 21 dogs on the list. That’s where the name comes from: 21 Homes. Because the chief aim is to find homes for them. The list has expanded since then, but the name stays the same. It reflects our goal to find homes for these “invisible” dogs.

Belen Garcia, lives in Barcelona

Biologist, Anthrozoologist and Canine Educator at Sentit Caní www.sentitcani.com

Pet Partners Goes International – Dog Visits for Health and Wellness

Did you know that animals can benefit the health and wellness of people in need? Pet Partners, a therapy animal organization, is on track to bring the healing power of therapy animals to hospitals, nursing homes, and more in Spain. Therapy animal teams are made up of a highly-educated handler who makes therapy animal visits with their pet, who has a calm temperament and seeks out interactions with people.

Pet Partners provides prospective therapy animal teams with online education about how to be a good therapy animal team. Then, prospective teams are tested by an evaluator, who will determine if the animal has the proper temperament to provide therapy animal visits. This evaluator will then determine if the handler can read their animal’s body language, as well as advocate for and provide continuous reassurance to their animal.

photo by Andrew Leu, courtesy Unsplash

Pet Partners has been operating in the United States for 40 years, but recently expanded into 11 countries, thanks to a generous donation from the Lilly Foundation, through Elanco Animal Health. These funds allowed Pet Partners to create evaluators and register therapy animal teams around the world.

Our first international evaluation occurred at the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations conference. Practicum attendees hailed from Hong Kong, India, Poland, Romania, and Switzerland. These evaluators all passed their practicum, and then returned to their home countries to begin evaluating and registering therapy animal teams.

Next, Pet Partners traveled to South Korea and Colombia to hold practicums and evaluations over the span of a few days; these trips added 6 more international evaluators. These trips also allowed us to register several new therapy animal teams (many of whom were evaluators) during our time in-country.

In 2018, Pet Partners registered 3 more evaluators, hailing from Spain, Switzerland, and Romania. Mona Tellier, Pet Partners evaluator from Spain, explains why she became involved with Pet Partners:

 “Pet Partners embodies the joy of practicing AAI with your pet in a safe, non-invasive manner. Everyone enjoys the experience. As volunteerism increases in Spain, I see more and more people willing and eager to share their beloved pet with those living in institutions.”

Prospective volunteers should be aware that the international Pet Partners therapy animal program is still in a pilot phase, so at this time, dogs are only accepted as therapy animals. Pet Partners does plan to add other species as international therapy animals in 2019 – if you’re a cat or horse lover, stay tuned! However, since 2019 Pet Partners offers insurance coverage to international teams. Some facilities may require this insurance coverage to visit, so we are pleased to ease the teams’ volunteer activities. The required course for handlers and all continuing education courses are in English, so comfort with speaking, reading, and writing in English is necessary to participate. The vet form is available in many languages, including Spanish, so your veterinarian can fill that form out with ease.

There are many benefits to volunteering with your pet. Volunteers experience a deep bond with their animal because they dedicate time to training and learning about their animal’s body language. This bond is deepened when volunteers visit in patients in hospitals.

photo by Alicia Jones, courtesy Unsplash

Patients will begin to smile when you and your animal walk through the door; therapy animal visits are often the highlight in a patient’s day.

Volunteering with Pet Partners can also help you build a community of pet lovers who want to make a difference. Our volunteers work together to approach facilities about visits, visit groups together, and share resources and tips. Volunteering is an excellent way to meet people with your interests and values. Pet Partners will launch an online community soon for therapy animal teams. This will be an online resource where teams can post questions and seek advice from other therapy animal teams. As our international program is just getting started in Spain, this will be particularly helpful for our new Spanish teams to make connections and learn from other volunteers around the world.

Our volunteers will tell you that the best reason to get involved with Pet Partners is to make a difference in your community. The most meaningul moments for many of our volunteers occur when clients connect with their pets. One of our international handlers from Colombia, Teresa, recounts a visit that lifted the spirits of children and care workers in need of some joy.

“Our first visit as a Pet Partners therapy animal team was on December 23rd at Centro Terapeutico Infantil (CETI). The government places children with disabilities with this organization when the children are without family, need protection, have inadequate living situations, or when families need extra support. Many of the children are in wheelchairs. I felt that the energy of the organization was so heavy because of the difficulties the children had to overcome.

The children were sad because the organization didn’t have money for Christmas decorations. I collected Christmas decorations and went to visit them with some fellow volunteers. Molly the therapy dog said hello to each one of the kids, and they had the opportunity to pet her, brush her, and “shake” her paw. The children were so happy to see her! The adults working at the center also had the opportunity to be with Molly.”

Molly’s presence was able to brighten the day of those in need, because of dedicated volunteers like Teresa. Pet Partners teams can change the lives of those they visit, or even just brighten a person’s day.

If you want to share your pet’s love and comfort with those in need, please visit petpartners.org/about-us/contact-us/ to let us know of your interest.

photo courtesy pxhere.com

For more information contact www.petpartners.org

Why Perfect Service Dog Puppies Are a Red Flag

by Natalie Bridger Watson

People who are training their own service dogs are under an extraordinary amount of pressure from day one.

In addition to the baseline difficulties caused by our disabilities, we have also taken responsibility for the two-year process of painstakingly transforming a tiny infant mammal of another species into a reliable medical device. One which we will then depend on to literally save our lives for the next decade.

So, let’s acknowledge the obvious: That is an incredibly high bar.

And sometimes we get a little bit carried away in our enthusiasm.

It’s almost always their first service-dog training gig. They have waited months or years to get their prospect. They’ve done all their research.  They’ve watched the videos, they’ve talked to other handlers, they’ve found a corner of the service dog community where they feel comfortable.

After all that learning and waiting, they have counted down the minutes until their prospect will come home.  It’s going to be them and their dog against the world, partners for life.

Most of the time, they’re not a professional dog trainer, but they’ve done enough work with the family’s dog that they’re confident in their training skills.  And besides, they have resources to reach out to if they run into trouble.  They can’t wait to start this new adventure.

The puppy comes home, and he is perfect. Not merely perfect, but transcendent, sublime, world-shatteringly wonderful in every possible way.  He is overflowing with potential.  His puppy breath smells like hope.

And the owner-trainer dives into training with a gusto.  Finally, time to act on those carefully laid plans!  The puppy learns sit, down, stay, shake, roll over, take a bow, spin!  He excels in his obedience classes.  He is a wonder.  His owner’s confidence blooms with every new success – and at this point, it’s all success.  After all, this is the perfect puppy!

A couple weeks into their intensive training, the owner has a medical crisis, because the owner is disabled and that is a thing that happens on the regular.  That’s why the puppy is here.

And it so happens that the puppy does a puppy thing before or during the crisis.  Did he just do a medical alert?  A natural alert? By jove, I believe it was! It must have been!

The owner-trainer is equal parts astounded and relieved.  They are on the right track!  This “training your own service dog” thing might be possible after all with a puppy this perfect.

So, they push the puppy a little bit further and a little bit faster – after all, the puppy is succeeding left, right and center. They put him into intensive training.  He can handle it.  He is a miracle on four legs, a furry Einstein.

The team starts practising in public early — really early.  Puppy knows ten tasks by the time he’s six months old and he naturally alerts to every disability ever.  The team is doing eight hours of training towards public access accreditation every day without breaking a sweat.  Other dogs may need to take it slow and work on their foundations at this age, but this puppy is a prodigy.  He can handle anything.

…. Until he can’t.

When starting a new service dog project, it’s normal to feel a sickening combination of ambitious and terrified.  By this point in the journey, we’ve already had it carved into our brain that there are only two possible outcomes: utter perfection or screaming catastrophe.

We know that it is our solemn duty to protect the honor of other SD teams everywhere by being unimpeachably, unquestionably perfect at all hours of the day.  We know that anything less than that is grievous injury to the reputation of the service dog community and a shame upon our people.

Now let that anxiety simmer for months or years in the unfortunate toxic soup of subtle one-upmanship and humble-bragging that absolutely permeates the online service dog community.

It’s no surprise that every new prospect leaves us teetering on the fine line between optimism and sheer panic.

The tragedy of the perfect puppy prodigy is that, despite their early promise, they often fail to live up to their own potential.  Many struggle more than they needed to, and many others wash out of training entirely.

And they don’t wash out because they have some hidden flaw that doomed them from the start.  They wash out because their handler becomes so fixated on getting to the finish line fast that they rush forward on a shaky foundation.

Service dog training involves a lot of pressure on both the handler and the dog.  That’s why we have such high criteria for our service dog program eligibility.

And under pressure, shaky foundations collapse.

There is an adage in the dog training community that “slow is fast and fast is slow,” meaning that it is often faster in the long run to be thorough with your foundations in the beginning.  That holds doubly true for service dog training or any type of intensive working dog training where burnout is a serious risk.

I suggest you read that paragraph again. And again.

Lock it into your heart as deeply as you’ve internalized all that talk about perfection and upholding the reputation of the service dog community, because it is every bit as important.  Slow is fast and fast is slow.  Digest the idea.  Hold onto it.  Write it on the cover of that notebook where you keep the training plans for your perfect future puppy.

If you want perfection when you are training your own service dog, then the best way to achieve that is to earn it by training slowly and building on a solid foundation.

Let the puppy learn puppy things.  Focus on quality, not quantity, in your socialization plan.  Support your dog’s changing brain through adolescence and expect to hit some temporary setbacks.  Evaluate your progress regularly and shore up your weak points instead of exclusively improving on your strengths.  Remember that you are building a functional partner, not racing toward a finish line.

The best service dog programs in the USA very consistently wait to place dogs until they are 18-24 months old.  This is not an accident or a coincidence.  It is hubris, pure and simple, to think that a first-time owner-trainer is going to have a reliable, proofed, stable, public-access-ready dog in half the time it takes someone who does this for a living, working with the best resources available.

When clients contact me with stories about their perfect puppy, I am cautious.  When friends assure me that their adolescent dogs have a dozen tasks under their belt already, I don’t get excited — I get worried.

Because perfect puppies tend to burn out.

Training Your Own Service Dog?  Choose Slow, Not Perfect.

We all want to believe we have the perfect prodigy puppy who was literally born for this job.  We need as much help as we can get — if we didn’t need help, we wouldn’t be owner-training a service dog in the first place.  And with the amount of pressure that we’re under to be perfect in every circumstance, it sometimes feels like a magical puppy is what it would take to succeed at all.

The uncomfortable reality is that the perfect puppy does not exist.

There are, however, many adequate puppies who can be shaped into service dogs with effort, skill and patience.

The critical ingredient is time.

Natalie Bridger Watson CPDT-KA is a

  • Positive reinforcement dog trainer
  • An advocate for deaf dogs and reactive dogs
  • A service dog handler
  • And the author of “Level Up Your Dog Training: How to Teach Your Dog Anything (Some Assembly Required)

She is based in Jacksonville, North Carolina

What cute dog pictures!

Introducing Pacia Wan

Who doesn’t love a photo of a charming dog? Especially when we snap and share the adorable antics of our own furry companions. Now that high-quality digital cameras are as close as the smart phone in our pocket, it’s never been easier to get images of our dogs at every waking (and sweetly snoozing) moment. However, while taking a photo is one thing, capturing images that play up your pet’s best features or finest moments is something else. Sad to say, we all can take photos, but not all of us are photographers.

The portrait industry, and the chronicling of family memories, has been around since cameras were first invented. Most of us remember sitting for the annual holiday family portrait or for that cringe-worthy shot that ended up in the high-school yearbook. But dogs were never really part of the portrait industry. At the most they made sporadic appearances in the photos that commemorated birthdays, family outings and reunions.

But recently all that is changed; nowadays professional pet photographers abound and, for those moments you want perfect, what better than to put your little puppy before the lens of an expert.

Photo courtesy of Pacia Wan

We all know cute dog pictures when we see them. Great natural snapshots that appeal to our nurturing instincts or wild action shots that flood us with awe. People + pet moments to be cherished, be it a tender nose-to-muzzle greeting, a dynamic Frisbee catch or a goofy pup photo-bombing a selfie. And let’s not forget the posed portraits – designed to highlight a dog costume or placing a pet in an incongruous place or time.

The Secret Behind the Pacia Wan Magic

The dogs in a Pacia Wan portrait look like little kids spruced up for the annual school photo. Slightly bewildered yet eager to please, they prick up their ears and fan the air with their noses. Tails wag, eyes sparkle, they face the camera and with a click! Shinichi Mito captures their canine charm. According to Mito, his are not merely dog portraits, they portray “dogs as family”, reflecting the special place they occupy within their homes. 

Over ten years ago, Mito was a successful commercial photographer based in Tokyo. He enjoyed photographing his own miniature dachshund and it occurred to him that people might want to commemorate the appeal of their own canine companions. Taking an imaginative leap, he founded the company Pacia-Wan.

Mito captures their canine charisma with grace and imagination. Props and backgrounds place them in remote, romantic adventures that bounce off the aspirations and dreams of their human companions. Puppies pause amid frolic; seniors dignify the passage of time; purebreds and mutts alike strike regal poses. These are portraits to treasure – one swift moment in the lives they share with their dogs.

Photo courtesy of Pacia Wan

The arrangement is simple: Mito books weekend engagements throughout the year at dog-friendly hotels and hot-spring spas all over Japan. When he started Pacia-Wan there were few such places, but in recent years many establishments have laid out the dog-welcome mat. Dogs and their people enjoy a relaxing vacation at the spot of their choice, and pop up at the portable studio and outdoor dog run for their booked session. He photographs some dogs in their natural state, but more often people bring along holiday-theme costumes or designer wear. They decide upon a background, along with the props best suited to the setting or occasion. Sessions are rapid, fun, and loaded with as much variety as a dog’s patience will allow. 

People often ask Mito to shoot a portrait of the entire household, and Mito assures us that these vignettes rival any traditional family portrait in warmth and solidarity. The acceptance of pets as part of the group reflects the changing nature of family as an institution in Japan. As reported in the Guardian newspaper, by 2012 Japan’s pet population had risen to 22 million, far more than the 16.5 million children under the age of 15. A growing population of young adults, whether single or partnered, are eschewing the life-changing responsibilities of having children. Yet many embrace the emotional benefits of caring for a four-legged companion. 

Appealing to the Japanese fondness for commemorative goods, Pacia Wan invites its clients to immortalise their family memories on an ample array of collectibles. Selected images personalise such objects as cups, stickers, kitchen linen, calendars, and carry-on luggage. Like pop-star merchandise, everyday items are elevated as mementos to a special experience shared with their pet and permanent reminders of their special place within the family.

Photo courtesy of Pacia Wan

Take a moment to check out the Pacia Wan webpage at http://www.pacia.co.jp/ for an array of captivating images and impressive goods.

Photo courtesy of Pacia Wan

Dog Heart Magazine 3 is OUT!

cover photo courtesy of Pacia Wan

Welcome Back!

It’s been a while since issue number two. We apologise. We’ve been setting up a pet-dog training school, exploring many opportunities to spread the word about IAA and assistance dogs, and preparing future assistance-dog units. Most are people and their beloved pets, undergoing bespoke training to achieve the accreditation necessary to be able to enter any public place. We train at home and in public, creating training strategies to fit in with their special needs and the rhythm of their lives. Such a motivating task – the people we work with are sure of the valuable aid their dog will provide and train with unmatched dedication. Watch for these new units highlighted in future issues!

And we’ve been out and about talking about Animal-Assisted Interventions. Introducing our dogs and the work we do to adults and to children, in civic centres, libraries and schools. People love to hear how dogs reach out to the minds and hearts of people who gain by canine contact. This story collection will be shared in these pages in issues to come.

Everywhere we go we see examples of the deep bond formed between dogs and people. We observe it in real life both – on the train, in parks, at the dog-training school – as well as in photography, literature, art, and music. Many issues of Dog Heart Magazine will be filled by the stories we capture! Our aim is to have you relive and revel in the human-canine bond found all over the world.

We hope you savour this magazine. We wish to see you informed, inspired, and stimulated into action. We also would love to see your feedback and contributions.

Ready to collaborate? If so, please contact us and tell us about you, your dog, and your ideas.