Happiness Dogs in UAE
The Reading Dogs and Royal Canin UAE collaboration began in August 2021, resulting in the launch of The Happiness Dogs; the first Animal Assisted Activity organization in the UAE.
Animal Assisted activities are those run alongside educational or therapeutic sessions to provide reassurance and support. The use of dogs this way is still very much developing in the gulf region but the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The Happiness Dogs have now completed pilot programs in five centers including Al Jalila Children’s Hospital in addition to educational and respite centers.
The dogs have helped in a traditional classroom setting as well as in speech, physical therapy and counselling sessions.
We now hold group and individual sessions every term in The Developing Child Centre and Jad’s Inclusion and work monthly alongside Sunshine Learning Difficulties Center to offer sessions to their community.
Royal Canin UAE assist with financial support, marketing materials, veterinary volunteers to accompany the dogs in the sessions and awareness through social media and local radio.
The Happiness Dogs team consists of volunteer pet owners and their dogs who complete an ongoing training programme to determine suitability for the role. This involves veterinary, behavioral and socialization assessments as well as owner-coaching with Zahra Poonawala, an Animal Assisted Therapist, to provide support and education on the groups of children and young adults we work with.
Since August 2021, we have read stories, sung songs, tried our paws at arts and crafts and learnt some sign language to help us communicate with all the children we have been fortunate to meet.
And in addition the children and young adults have practiced how to approach and touch the dogs, what our dogs need every day to be happy and how they express their emotions- everybody loves a waggy tail.
It has been a privilege to join these children in their classes and a joy to watch them interact with Mickey, Tiger Lily and Millie. This is just the beginning for our Happiness Squad- we are so excited for the future!