The survey was conducted in Poland among people actively involved in the fields of therapy and education. The survey was conducted online and by phone among organizations and individuals. There were 77 dogs' handlers who took part in the survey, 76 of whom actively work with dogs and one person is in the process of preparing the dog for work.
63% of the respondents are members of organizations and operate in accordance with their guidelines and certification system. The respondents mentioned 17 organizations associating therapeutic and educational teams. The Animals for People Association was indicated by eight respondents, Polish Kynotherapeutic Society by six of them, and Super Dogs Foundation by two people. All of the others (11 institutions) were indicated by one person each.
Definitely, the most (over half) of the respondents indicated teaching as their primary profession (51.9%). Others indicated the "other" profession - not included in the survey (45.5%), dog trainer (24.7 %), healthcare worker ( 9.1%) and coach (2.6%).
Most of the therapeutic and educational teams work with children in Poland. 81.8% of the respondents indicated kindergartens as institutions where they conduct classes, followed by schools (79.2%). Next were the care homes (26%), rehabilitation centres (16.9%), hospitals (10.4%). 7.8% of the teams work in mental health care facilities. Nearly 20% of the handlers work with their dogs in patients' homes (19.5%). 29.9% of the respondents chose the answer "other" (these may be residential homes, prisons, resocialization centres and community centres).
Most of the teams (74%) work both with groups and conduct individual classes. 18.2% of respondents are specialized in group classes, while 7.8% lead the individual classes only.
The largest group of the handlers works with one dog (58.4%). 24.9% of them work with two dogs, 7.8% with three, 5.2% with four, and less than 4% of the owners with five dogs or more (3.9%).
The breeds mentioned by the respondents as working in therapy are primarily golden retrievers (18 responses), cavalier king's Charles Spaniel (15 responses), Australian Shepherd (8 responses)Labrador retriever (7 responses), Samoyed (5), Bernese Mountain Dog, poodle and mix (4 responses) and others.
40.3% of respondents work with their dogs 1-2 times a week. 20.8% - three to four days a week. 15% - every other week, 13% - once a month, 7.8% - 5 days a week, 2.6% - every day.
The classes with the participation of a dog usually last 30 to 40 minutes - both answers were indicated by 39% of respondents. 11.7% conduct longer classes - 60 minutes, 6.5% - 90 minutes. There are dogs that work for several hours - 2 people indicated working about 2-3 hours, one person was working four and five hours' sessions with his dog.
71.4% of respondents evaluate their classes by keeping notes, activity notebooks or class evaluation cards. Nearly 30% (28.6%) do not conduct any evaluation of their work.
92.2% of the dogs pass the predisposition tests to work in AAI. 7.8% works without checking their predispositions and suitability. Most of the dogs (67.5%) were evaluated and admitted to work by a behaviourist, there were also other people supervising the tests: dog trainers (57.1%), a specialist animal behaviour (23.4%) and a veterinarian (11.7%) ). Individual people mentioned other specialists (breeders, AAI trainers, or specialized committees).
51.9% of dogs were assessed in a standardized test carried out by a local organization. 23.4% were evaluated on the basis of behaviour observation and 10.4% - the obedience test. The handlers highlight that their dogs were carefully selected and observed thoroughly inbreeding, what made their adaptation to work easier.
90.9% of respondents completed a course before starting to work at AAI with their dog. 9.1% work without any course or training. 87% of trained people completed a course run by AAI or a company and 11.7% completed university courses. Nearly every course (97.4%) has discussed dog behaviour. About 80% of the students had lectures in human psychology and developmental disorders as well as practical training in AAI (88.3%) and practical dog training (87%).
The length of the courses varies from 14 hours to 750 hours, the most popular are 200-hours courses (13.4%), 300-hours and 120-hours (7.5% each) 100-hours (6%) and 360-hours (4.5 hours). 90.9% of people had to pass exams after the course, of which 81.8% passed also a practical exam (with their dogs).
As we can see in the results, the education of dogs and handlers in Poland is very differential and there is no common standard. There are many organizations and companies provided courses, and the length of them is 14-750 hours. Some of them are only theoretical, without any dog training or practical exam. This survey has shown that we need some guidelines and good practices to unify and improve the quality of human-dog teams training. The field of AAI is very embroiled and it is not possible to give the clear summary of training, examination and conducting AAI.