By Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, CBT-FLE
Last November, I released the book Animal-Assisted Therapy: Superstars Change Teen Lives. The content includes laws, how to socialize and train pet partners, and case files from the teens we worked with over the years. Although I wrote the manuscript during the pandemic, most of our teens had not reached adulthood, so I waited.
The practice of AAT falls under the umbrella term Animal-Assisted Interventions. Some animal-assisted activity (AAA) practitioners don’t strive to reach specific objectives, like those who offer zootherapy.*
The definition of zootherapy goes as follows: it is the use of therapeutic drugs derived from animals, and more recently added, zootherapy is a type of therapy that uses animals. Normally, zootherapists volunteer their time and do not track goals. That said, some AAA practitioners do track goals, but most don’t.
The main difference between zootherapy, AAAs or AATs is the level of training the animal receives. Pet partners in AAT programs receive extensive socialization and training. The education of a dog, for example, equals approximately 1000 hours within the first year of the animal’s life. I present a sample week of socializing and training of our dogs.
The Dogue Shop’s AAT program is an innovative practice: the students train their pet partners. This allows us to challenge, educate and modify human and animal behaviour. Our teens drastically change from the first to the last day. They develop confidence, self-esteem, awareness, interpersonal communication, acceptance, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making.
The skills teens learn serve them not only in the classroom but also in their personal lives. We aim to help students manage their feelings while focusing on an animal’s ability to reciprocate their moods and emotions. Each case presents different results because we tailor our sessions to the student’s needs. However, one of the leading goals is to teach students how to create secure attachments or change insecure ones.
I published a dyslexia font edition for those who need a different kind of text to facilitate reading. I hope you read it for the sake of the students who gave their 200% during our classes. I’m certain that our past participants would thank you for your interest in their achievements. You can come to discuss with me on GoodReads.
* A direct translation from the French term: zoothérapie.
- Bert F, Gualano MR, Camussi E, Pieve G, Voglino G, Siliquini R. Animal-assisted intervention: A systematic review of benefits and risks. Eur J Integr Med. 2016 Oct;8(5):695-706. doi: 10.1016/j.eujim.2016.05.005. Epub 2016 May 20. PMID: 32362955; PMCID: PMC7185850.