The assisted therapy sessions, with animals, undertaken by Foundation Canis Majoris, through its trainers and dogs, have an estimated length of 50 minutes, with groups of 5 or 6 subjects. All of them are people who suffer mental illness. In the background of each session lie two main ideas: that the patients learn to interact verbally, physically and emotionally, with the assistance dog and with other subjects, and the well being of the dog, which is not a working tool, but rather a company animal which must be spoiled and protected. The Assisted Therapies, which the Foundation undertakes, to a same group, consist in 4 month sessions, divided into two sessions a week. In general, they are offered in centers with the Community of Madrid. In all sessions, we count on the support of one or various therapists; they are the ones who really know the patients.
Each session begins with a series of routines which allow the subject to identify the given session with a working day, for which certain obligations are required. The patients learn to prepare the water and the prizes which they will offer to the assistance dog, short after each exercise. They also reorganize the room, once they are finished.
Inside the routines are included the salute and the goodbye, given to the assistance dog. All subjects begin, from the start of the session, to interact with the animal, so that their cognition development, physically and emotionally, get the proper stimulation. The trainers of Foundation Canis Majoris, ensure that after three or four sessions the majority of subjects present improvement, in the way they express themselves verbally, not only with the dog, but also among themselves.
Each session is a little different, but normally, -with certain exceptions-there are exercises in basic education (sitting down, lying down, raising the front legs..), also the hygiene of the dog is worked, in addition to the walks they are offered. Furthermore, memory exercises are executed, or certain emotional tasks are conducted. The subjects loose their fears towards the dog, since the first days. In the process they undo themselves of a certain corporal rigidness, and they quickly learn from the non-verbal language, given that the dog reacts more swiftly to non-verbal, corporal language than to any other kind. The response which the dog is given is always the same: gratitude, joy, and tenderness.
Depending on the type of exercise, which is carried in each session, we see that certain capacities are worked out. In the beginning they are brief, so that the patients don´t tire out nor feel frustrated, if they don’t carry out properly. On the other hand, as the therapies progress, the subjects learn to persevere in their determination and consequently prolong in the duration of the works. Their improvement in this sense is very evident. When the cycle of the therapy is concluded, each patient has been able to undertake, having worked with the dog for ten minutes, individually.
The only aspect which is not reinforced during these sessions is the care and tenderness interchanged with the dog, so that the patient may learn naturally, and will not feel forced to expresss love and tenderness to the assistance dog.