Canine Assisted Learning provides Animal Assisted Interventions and Activities to Schools, Colleges, Universities Mental health hospitals, Workplaces and private environments.
CAL was founded in 2013 by Victoria Plumer an animal assisted therapist with a background in equine and dog training; equine assisted therapy; behaviour management to young people with social emotional and behaviour difficulties along with learning support and mental health experience. Her experiences came together and created a vision to utilise the amazing therapeutic power of animals to support young peoples learning and development. This vision evolved to creating mentally healthy schools, colleges, universities and workplaces whilst raising the profile of MH and decreasing stigma. CAL is proud to participate in national events on the MH calendar throughout the year providing interventions, visiting speakers and appearing at wellbeing conferences.
CAL works with a team of like minded experienced consultants all with a passion to improve the lives of young people and adults with the use of our highly trained support dogs. We work with a team of Mental health specialists, Senior Teachers, therapists and behaviour management specialist to ensure we maintain our high standards are and at the forefront of Animal Assisted interventions across the UK. We are proud of the quality of service we offer, working seamlessly in schools and workplacs.
What are Animal-Assisted Interventions and Animal-Assisted Activities?
Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) involve the use of specifically chosen animals in a range of activities or interactions with people. These interventions are designed to meet particular goals as part of individualised planning. Progress is monitored and reviewed.
For example, to improve a pupil’s literacy skills our team liaises with the child’s teacher to measure the young person’s reading age before working with them on a 1:1 basis, targeting their specific difficulties and making the most of our dog’s unique abilities. We then evaluate our progress at regular intervals, usually each half-term. We have had excellent results here, with pupils who previously refused to read increasing two reading-ages in just a single half term.
Animal-assisted activities (AAA) do not have specific objectives for individuals, instead provide all-round improvements that positively affect social,
emotional and physical well-being and raise the general quality of life of participants.
For children who find it difficult to remain in the classroom our presence can have dramatic benefits. They naturally desire to spend time with our dog and so access far more learning than they normally would. This also helps to create a stable environment for the rest of the class. Extra time with the dog can also be used as a reward for tasks completed or positive behaviour choices.
The History of Animal-Assisted Therapy
The earliest documented studies into AAT took place in 18th century England when animals were used as a socialisation medium for mentally ill patients, “awakening the social and benevolent feelings” of the inmates. The animals were recognised as non-judgmental, calming influences that helped to reduce stress and anxiety.
Sigmund Freud believed that dogs had a ‘special sense’ that allows them to judge a person’s character accurately—his dog attended all of his therapy sessions. Freud believed that the animal’s presence had a calming influence on all of his patients, especially the children. Similarly, in the early 1960s, Dr. Boris Levinson reported a new step forward in animal-assisted therapy when he found that withdrawn and uncommunicative children would interact more encouragingly whenever he brought his dog, Jingles, to their therapy sessions.
The Human-Animal Bond
The human-animal bond refers to the strong positive interaction that exists between humans and animals.
The positive impact of this bond is not only considerable but also backed up by scientific data, case studies and hard research all validating the therapeutic effects of human-animal relationships. These benefits can be emotional, psychological and physical. This unique bond can help to:
- Improve mood, reduce depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower the risk of a heart attack
- Motivate and encourage exercise
- Reduce and prevent stress
- Help to prevent disease
- Increase self-esteem
- Encourage socialisation
- Provide a source of social support
- Provide an unconditional acceptance and warmth
- Reduce social anxiety
- Improve academic achievement
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“A child who is exposed to the emotional experiences inherent in playing with a pet is given many learning opportunities that are essential to wholesome personality development. His play with the pet will express his view of the world, its animals, and its human beings, including his parents and peers.”