Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) are a vital aspect of our community stray animal care approach. By fostering empathy and changing attitudes towards stray dogs, these interventions aim to change people's behaviours towards them. Through firsthand experiences with these resilient and affectionate animals, participants develop a perception of stray dogs as deserving of care and protection. This shift in perception promotes responsibility and active engagement in local community stray animal care initiatives, such as adoption, spaying/neutering, responsible pet ownership and supporting local shelters. Ultimately, our goal is to create a compassionate society that values and provides an opportunity for stray dogs to lead happy and healthy lives.
FOUR PAWS pioneered a groundbreaking initiative by becoming the first organisation to introduce an AAI programme that selects, trains, and certifies former stray dogs as therapy dogs. This pioneering effort aims to demonstrate the significant contributions that stray dogs can make to our society. Under the guidance of experts, these dogs undergo specialised training to fulfill their role as therapy dogs, further highlighting their potential and positive impact. These dogs are also adopted by their dog handler and become their pet dog as well as therapy dog.
Why stray dogs can make such good therapy animals
Stray dogs possess qualities that make them excellent companions for humans, including sensitivity, reliability, and sociability, enabling them to excel as therapy dogs. To prepare them for this role, experienced dog trainers provide consistent reward-based training, along with the necessary equipment and a suitable environment. Our teams ensure comprehensive training for carefully selected dogs, meeting international requirements before they embark on their new journey as therapy dogs.
Preparing dogs for Animal Assisted Interventions
FOUR PAWS has developed its own Quality Standards for Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) to define, secure, check and continuously improve the quality of our AAI activities. We want to achieve the best possible quality of life for the former stray dogs in our care, as well as operate the programme as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Our priority is the welfare of our dogs, so when it comes to AAI work, we need to ensure that the dog is physically and mentally fit to work in AAI settings.
Thorough consideration is essential for selecting AAI dogs, taking into account their temperament, age, behaviour, and physical health. A comprehensive selection process ensures that chosen dogs exhibit adaptability and predictability in various environments. Ideally, AAI dogs should possess friendly, confident, and calm temperaments.
Consists of three steps: the adjustment period, socialisation and formal training. The adjustment and socialisation period serve to form a trusting relationship between the handler and the dog and the social resilience of the dog. The formal training period is about building the necessary training skills for AAI work. All FOUR PAWS training is based on positive reinforcement.
Following a minimum of 12-month training period and upon reaching the minimum age of 18 months, a dog is eligible for certification. The key elements of the assessment are temperament, behaviour, and physical health.
In 2018, our AAI programme expanded to Ukraine where FOUR PAWS first began AAI activities in Vinnytsia after a year of preparation.
FOUR PAWS became the first organisation to launch an AAI project with former stray dogs in Bulgaria.
In early 2016, FOUR PAWS opened the first Animal Assisted Therapy and Research Centre in Bucharest.
2004: Romania 'Dogs for People'
In 2004, FOUR PAWS launched its AAI Programme with former stray dogs in Romania. The 'Dogs for People' project started with a mobile team which provided therapy sessions in special centres for children with disabilities.
Smiley, AAI Bulgaria
Shoko, AAI Bulgaria
Kaya, AAI Bulgaria
Freya, AAI Ukraine
Busia, AAI Ukraine
Bumi, AAI Romania
FOUR PAWS extends its global reach by actively participating in international organisations dedicated to Dog Population Management and Animal Assisted Interventions. As a full member of the International Companion Animal Management (ICAM) coalition, FOUR PAWS also holds membership with the International Association for Human Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO) and Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII). These memberships allow FOUR PAWS to promote its key stray animal welfare messages on a global scale.