Dogs for People was founded 6 years ago by founder Paul Elmakes. With 20 years of experience in the field working with children and youth at risk and with special needs, Paul developed an educational model for teaching children and youth in a hands on method, how to train dogs, and by metaphor and transference, how to use their newly acquired skills reflexively, to learn the skills to navigate their own life problems. Dogs for People was established as a non profit organization in 2006.
The highly measurable outcomes of the program are both the behavioral modifications on the part of program participants as well as their dog partners, who in the process are trained to perform in competitions. Both outcomes are obtained as a result of the unique relationship each child builds with his/her dog partner, who are mixed breed animals that have been abandoned.
Six hundred children and youth, both at risk and with special needs, have participated in the program over the past 5 years. Currently, through collaborations with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, local authorities and national organizations such as Kedum Noar, AMEN, the Israel Association for Community Centers, and the Karen Karev Foundation, there are close to 2100 children, youth and adults in (13) cities throughout Israel participating in Dogs for People programs. Our programs include: 1) Training in Dog handling programs for children and youth at risk in school 2) Training in Dog handling courses as 'huggim" or enrichment courses, in after-school programs for children and youth at risk, 3) Training in Dog handling for children, youth and young adults with special needs 4) Training in Dog Handling for children and youth who have undergone trauma and 5) Training in Dog Handling for participation in competitions in International Para Agility Competitions.
A research program is currently being designed to measure the impact of the program on a population of youth who have undergone severe trauma, to both better understand program outcomes and evaluate program effectiveness.
About Dogs For People
Adi Fisher has been in the field working with Dogs For People over the past two years. She is a professional dog trainer, has a B.S. in special education and a certificate in animal assisted therapy. Adi is also a member of the Israel Academy of Kenneling.
Vlad Demartzev has been in the field working with animals and children for the past 6 years, two of which have been with Dogs For People. Vlad is a professional dog trainer who has a degree in animal husbandry, a field he spent many years in as a researcher in animal behavior. Vlad is also a member of the Israel Academy of Kenneling.
Avi Tchelet is a retired banker who has always loved dogs. He is the founder of the Israeli Agility Club. and is a professional agility trainer and competitive judge. Avi judges all the agility competitions which are held under the auspices of Dogs for People.
For High Risk Children and Youth aged 9-12
In collaboration with Karen Karev, Dogs for People has begun a pilot program in Training in Dog Handling for 750 youth, boys and girls, aged 9-12, many of whom come from low income families and are at risk, in 5 schools/locations throughout Israel. The program has been designed to both enrich the student's skill mix and help alleviate disciplinary problems in school, by giving classroom teachers discretionary decision making regarding which students, based on clear criteria for classroom performance and good behavior, will attend the program.
In the Dog Training for Youth Program, studies are not merely theoretical - which is often a source of frustration for high risk youth - but practical: Students not only obtain results of their work over a relatively short period of time, they develop needed leaderships skills and make a contribution to the community through volunteering.
Specific program goals are:
- To reduce violence among youths
- To reduce the drop-out rate in high risk youth.
- To offer tools to build labor market skills
- To offer tools to build a mix of social skills
- To teach self restraint and how to deal with and overcome failure
- To teach the skills needed for local and international competitions in Para agility
The estimated program cost in 2009-1010 is $ 342,000 and Dogs for People is seeking matching program funds of $ 75,000.
For Children, Youth and Young Adults with Special Needs
Individuals with varying degrees of mental retardation and other physical and mental disabilities but who are high functioning, often encounter difficulties in daily life. Lacking in some motor, communication, and social skills, many are rejected by society and feel helpless.
Training in Dog Handling for this population helps build communication and gross motor skills, because to train a dog commands must be articulated clearly and proper body posture and a level of self confidence must be maintained. Training to be a dog handler also improves reaction time, fine motor abilities, and self-esteem.
Training for dog handling within a therapeutic/rehabilitative model, in this population has two main goals:
- To build motor, communication and social skills
- To teach vocational skills for dog handling with the goal of participating in local and international competitions in Para agility
DFP is currently working with Karen Karev, local authorities and with the Ministry of Social Affairs to bring programs to 750 children, youth and young adults with special needs. The budget for the year is $380,000 and DFP is seeking matching funds of $80,000
For Children with Autism
The principal which under-girds animal assisted therapy and rehabilitation programs for persons with Autism is similar to the floor time/DIR model but can have an amplified effect because dogs require a high level of – for example, they run, jump, have animated attention seeking behavior --raising both the range and intensity of stimuli in interactions. When environmental stimuli are introduced by using various dogs in a variety of tasks, gradually and slowly, persons with autism learn how to cope with environmental stimuli and how to enjoy the communication.
Specific Goals for this program include:
- Building stronger communication, gross motor and fine motor skills
- Building feelings of security, comfort and happiness
- Building parental satisfaction
There are currently 40 children with autism participating in Dogs for People programs. The 2009 budget for the program is $55,000 and Dogs for People is seeking $15,000 in matching program funds for the program.
For Children and Youth Who Have Undergone Trauma and Abuse
Dogs for People works with several distinct populations of children and youth who have developed psycho trauma: Some have developed the disorder as a result of the continued shelling from war, which the children and youth of Sderot and surrounding areas have undergone over the past several years. Others have developed trauma and subsequent attachment disorders because of abuse, neglect and or violence in their homes, from which they have been removed.
Program goals are to:
- Empower participants to make life course decisions
- Enable participants to form successful relationships and attachments
- Train participants in Leadership and Vocational Training
- Build resiliency over the life course
There are currently 35 participants in the program whose cost in 2009 is $65,000. Dogs for People are seeking $50,000 for the program.
For Competition in International Para Agility Competitions
On April 6 and July 31, 2009 the first Para Agility Competitions in Israel, organized by Dogs for People, was held in Sderot and Ashdod. From 10 am until 3 pm, 100 competitors, from persons with disabilities to youth at risk, competed in front of an audience of 2-300 comprised of the Mayors and family members and friends, and representatives from the various Ministries, along with the Dogs for People counseling staff, who all turned out to cheer on the participants and their dog partners in the competition.
On September 2-6, 2009, the Dogs for People team competed in the Para Agility International Mix and Breed Championship Cup an International competition held in Gyula, Hungary in which 100 participants from 18 European countries participated. Three competitors from the Dogs for People team won a gold, silver and bronze medal, respectively, in the competition
Agility is a brisk dog sport where the handler's aim is to direct the dog through a variety of obstacles without any faults, in a predetermined time frame. The handler must assess the course, decide on handling strategies and direct the dog through the course with precision and speed. Para Agility is the same sport whose rules are adjusted for handlers with special needs.
The total cost of participating in an International competition is $40,000. Dogs for People are seeking matching funds of $20,000 for transportation and accommodations for the next Para Agility Championship Cup which will be held in Switzerland in 2010.
Contact US –Donation Page
Dogs for People Association
Beit Ezra, POB 212 Israel 79285
Phone/Fax 08 865 0246
Contact Person Asia Pavis Mobile: 972 52 2888 147
donation by pay-pal:
Nursing Home Visits
The Program's Aims:
Volunteering Dogs give Moments of Joy in Nursing Homes
Many studies prove that the companionship of pets contributes to mental and physical health.
Dogs For People works to improve the quality of life of elderly people at healthcare institutions and in the community. This program was created by a volunteer and his friendly dog who came to a nursing home to entertain residents who wanted to spend time with the dog: pet it, play with it, walk it, win its affection and pass the time pleasantly.
The dog evidently contributed not only by providing a fun and relaxing experience, but in improving the health of the elderly. Many residents are better off after meetings with Dog Petting: volunteers encourage them to move around, walk outside their rooms, practice physical therapy exercises, join a trip or just smile. Elderly people who have lost the joy of living, will exercise, communicate or smile - thanks to their furry visitors.
Who are the Volunteering Dogs?
Volunteering dogs do not go through any special training unlike various service dogs, guide dogs, dogs for Alzheimer's patients, dogs trained to save, protect, rescue or search for explosives and drugs. They do not have certificates, and for the most part, are not purebred. However, volunteering dogs are all endowed with a real personality, sensitivity, empathy and willingness to give attention and receive caresses. Thanks to these natural qualities, volunteering dogs are able to meet a number of tasks, almost metaphysical, during their visit to a nursing home:
- Make the atmosphere of the nursing home institution less formal;
- Make people smile around the table and soften the atmosphere;
- Arouse the attention of even most frail residents;
- Delight animal lovers, and amuse those who aren't;
- Relieve tensions, providing unabtrusive thoughts;
- Encourage residents' activity;
- Create or awaken sweet memories;
- Create an opportunity for social contact, conversations and familiarity;
- Provide a unique, universal language;
- Relieve the suffering, boredom and loneliness for a few moments of grace;
This list does not describe everything that occurs during a dog petting session. To see a resident and friendly, playful dog is to view an animal giving unconditional love. For these residents, there is no experience like it.
Nursing Home Visit
Nursing homes differ in their rules and characteristics. The difference is also reflected in our program implementation and volunteering dogs. The staff will instruct the visitors what to do, where to go and guide them to the right people.
The nursing home has different departments adapted to the elderly: independent, physically exhausted, mentally exhausted and nursing care. All these departments have residents who would love to pet a puppy and chat with its owner. However, we note that volunteering dogs is especially popular in the nursing wards. These have residents who do relatively limited activity and their lives are more difficult. Elderlly people in nursing care rarely leave their department, and their employment ability is quite low. Petting the dog is a chance for recreation and leisure, touch and creating a relationship, especially in these wards where there is such an impact to the volunteer's visit.
Options Offered to Visitors:
- Remain in any ward you choose and spend time with the residents there;
- Walk among various wards and between rooms;
- Participate in the institutional activities, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, etc;
- Stay in a fixed place like a lobby, living room, garden or balcony. The dog lovers will come by themselves or accompanied by caregivers.
- The visit can be individual (visiting one or two residents), or a group - according to the volunteer's choice.
Together or separately? Some nursing homes request a visit of several volunteers and a few dogs at the same time. If the dogs do not get along, or in order to increase the number of beneficiaries, they will be directed to spread out in separate wards.
Family visit: Many volunteering dogs arrive accompanied by their entire human "family," which makes the visit a delightful and unforgettable family experience.
Frequency and time spent: Most of the volunteers tend to visit once a week for an hour. But some volunteers prefer visiting once or twice a month, and some volunteers actually drop by every day to say "hello" or even take the resident/s on a daily walk. Each volunteer comes when it's convenient for him, but has to coordinate the time with the person in charge in the nursing home.
Creating and developing relationships with the residents: Usually, dog lovers - independent residents and staff members - come to the visitors on their own initiative and ask to pet the dog. On the other hand, contrast, residents who aren't in good physical or mental health will remain in stationary and the volunteer needs to approach them, introduce himself and suggest that they pet the dog. There are many possibilities here for developing a relationship.
Within a short time the visitors, the residents and the staff will feel comfortable with each other: with some more and some less. After a few visits, volunteering dogs who feel 'at home' will know where to go, whom to meet and what to do. These visits of the dog and its owner are one of the favorite activities for nursing home residents.
What to do during the visit?
Simply speaking: one of the most natural ways to contact to the elderly is simply to talk to them. For example, you can talk about animals and their rights, their health and their status in Judaism. You can reminisce about issues of all kinds, not necessarily regarding dogs.
Appear and train: residents enjoy seeing intelligent dogs and are an appreciative and receptive audience to see dog exercises. If the dog knows how to follow commands, it's time to show his talents and train him to lend a hand, to bring a ball, hoop jump, jump over a stick, roll, dance, fetch a toy and bark - on command. Many of the dogs know these commands, and if not – they are easy to teach. We recommend having the elderly resident participate in training the dog. Sample activities for the elderly resident are holding the hoop, throwing the ball or giving a dog biscuit in reward for discipline.
Recommended Accessories: hoop, stick for physical therapy, ball, toy, dog biscuits.
Walking: you can walk the dog in the garden, porch, hallway or nursing home environment, according to the capabilities of the residents. The resident can walk the dog. If necessary you can harness the dog on two leashes: the volunteer will hold one and the resident will hold the other. Grooming the dog: The meeting can be an opportunity to groom the dog: many residents will brush the coat and brush his teeth, cut his nails, clean the ears and shampoo his fur. A beauty kit designed for grooming a dog has a brush, nail clipper, dry shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, baby wipes, cotton and perfume. Photographs: Many residents will be happy to be photographed with the dog (and get the picture). You can also edit short films for them to show in the nursing home.
Join local activities: coordinate with the head of the nursing home program: according to his instructions, visitors can participate in the routine and enrichment activities of the nursing home. For example, to accompany a group and take a walk with them, join a therapy hour, occupational activities or occupational therapy. These activities are designed to improve the residents' health and they will be a lot more fun accompanied by dog petting. Gifts for dogs: residents are invited to make a present for their friend furry and knit him a sweater for winter, prepare a collar, sew his Halloween costume, or even bake him cookies flavored with chicken (made with flour, eggs, chicken broth and various meat scraps).
Volunteer ground rules:
- Valid rabies vaccination;
- Take care of the dog before the visit: allow him to discharge energy according to his needs and give him a drink;
- Put the bandana of volunteering dogs on the dog's neck before visiting;
- Always have the dog on a leash in the nursing home unless you get permission to take him off;
- Consult with the staff if you plan to do any activity with the elderly like taking a walk ;
- Respect your dog's needs - if he shows signs of fatigue or stress, it is better to shorten the visit;
- You should keep a volunteering diary which includes the date of your visits - If you could not make it to the visit, announce the cancellation or postponement in advance. Set a date for the next visit;
- If you witnessed an incident you suspect might be abusive or neglect, speak with the head of the nursing home or contact your Dogs For People.
- Recruiting volunteers and running the program, contact Lisa.