Today there are numerous studies that justify the presence of dogs in therapeutic or educational environments . And many also those who demonstrate that post-prison recidivism can be avoided with the application of rehabilitation programs and with social and labor reintegration .
Both factors were the germ to launch in 2019 the first two programs of interventions with dogs as part of the process of social and labor insertion of young people with legal cases developed by the entities Perruneando and Engresca’t with the support of the Chair Animals and Society of the Rey Juan Carlos University.
The basis of these animal-assisted interventions is biophilia , or to put it another way, the innate emotional connection that we feel for other living beings. For this reason, they use the affective bond between the recipients of the intervention and the animal – in this case, selected and trained dogs – to work on reinsertion with very positive results. We talked about all this with the person in charge of the project Andrea Galofré , from Perruneando Barcelona.
How did the idea of starting the first two animal intervention programs come about as part of the process of social and labor insertion of young people with court cases?
The idea of adding dog-assisted intervention in the process of social and labor insertion of young people with legal cases started from one of the entity’s techniques (CIRE, Center d’Iniciatives per la REinserció) that accompanies and guides these young people in this process. She came to see a session of an initial program, promoted by the Open Medium techniques of the Department of Justice of the Generalitat de Catalunya. This previous program was designed with the objective of increasing the degree of self-knowledge of young people in this same situation.
Different activities were proposed from the Department and one of them was with dogs and we directed it from Perruneando Barcelona with the support of the Animals and Society Chair of the Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC).
With how many young people did you start up and what is the profile or characteristics of the participants?
In the first edition, eight young people between the ages of 16 and 29 participated, of whom four were able to finish the program. The other four, for justified reasons, were leaving the program. The choice of the participants is made by the CIRE referents with the common characteristic of having an open court case, but the profiles can be very diverse.
“We take care of the selection of the participating dogs, based on the degree of sociability and enjoyment in participating in these types of activities”
The design of both programs was carried out with the entities Perruneando and Engresca´t. How are the dogs prepared for these interventions and how are the intervention teams also trained?
The intervention team is made up of two CIRE techniques and two guides in assisted interventions with their dogs, from Perruneando Barcelona and Engresca’t. Both the design and the execution of the two editions of the program was led by this transdisciplinary team.
The integration of these professional profiles in a team of these characteristics is based on the specific training and solid experience of each of the members in different disciplines, establishing spaces for coordination and communication, in which all contributions and observations are collected and worked on. jointly. This is one of the most important aspects to be able to receive the support of the Animals and Society Chair of the URJC.
Andrea Galofré, head of the dog-assisted intervention program for young people with court cases.Andrea Galofré, head of the dog-assisted intervention program for young people with court cases.Courtesy Andrea Galofré.
Dogs are the responsibility of the canine guides, we take special care in their selection, based on the degree of sociability and enjoyment in participating in these types of activities. We also value how much they like to work as a team with their guide and the quality of the bond generated between this dog-guide pair and last but not least, we verify through veterinary analytics and controls, their optimal state of health. Broadly speaking, these concepts constitute one of those that for us are the pillars of dog-assisted interventions: animal welfare. Regarding the preparation,
“The dog allows the young man to start from scratch in a relationship and somehow begin to see himself from another point of view”
Both interventions are based on the biophilia or emotional connection that we feel with other living beings. Why can dogs achieve this affective bond, especially in young people in this situation, in a simpler and faster way than human beings?
Dogs don’t judge, they don’t label. They do not care where you come from or what happened and the participants in this program come precisely from a totally opposite process, in which they have been evaluated for a fact, they have been tried and sentenced. This episode, which for themselves and for society exerts an important weight on them, is something that dogs do not appreciate at all, it allows them to start from scratch in a relationship and somehow begin to see themselves from another perspective.
How do you work with young people and what are the main objectives of the programs?
The main objective of this particular program is to recognize the job search as a process and not as an immediate action. The sessions are held in group format and we work to achieve the objectives set by the youth referents through different activities that represent different moments of this process and based on the human-animal bond that session after session the participants consolidate with the dogs. of intervention and with the human team.
What have been the results and how has it favored the reintegration of these young people?
The main benefits that have been obtained in the intervention program with dogs, according to our CIRE colleagues, are:
- It is a highly motivating element.
- Facilitates bonding with the professional.
- Helps in the reduction of intolerance and frustration and reduces anxiety states, very recurrent in users of this type of activity.
- Increases self-esteem and the development of social and emotional skills.
- The animal does not judge.
“Contact with the animal reduces anxiety states, increases self-esteem and the development of social and emotional skills”
From the point of view of labor insertion, this type of activity uses the so-called mirror effect, that is, the user acquires learning through the extrapolation made from the analysis to which the dog has been subjected. This fact allows him to have a vision of the job search as a process, not as an action, in which he obtains adequate resources to manage difficult or stressful situations, where the improvement process is assimilated and in which he creates a closer bond with the professionals, which favors the accompaniment that they carry out.
What are the following animal intervention projects that you have planned or are currently developing?
For years we have worked with different groups, side by side with different professionals and with objectives as diverse as humanity itself. In the field of juvenile justice, this October we started a third edition with the same team as the other two previous editions, with the intention of improving the quality of life of these young people in such a complicated life situation