Shaman, the dog that helps healthcare professionals and patients during consultations

Marine Chesnais, speech educator in Giberville, her dog Shaman and Lilou Brun, leader of the Happy With Dogs association. © Maxence GORREGUES

This is a first in urban area Caen (Calvados), and its benefits were to be taken and felt from the first meetings. Since May 23, 2022, Marine Chesnais, speech therapist at Gibervilleeast of Caen, now welcomes its patients in the company of its dog, Shaman. This 6-month-old Miniature American Shepherd has a well-defined role in the therapeutic practice of the professional.

From now on, volunteer patients will be able to benefit from his help: “The interest in interacting with a trained dog is to facilitate or speed up treatment,” explains Lilou Brun, a specialist in animal-assisted therapy. .

The dog facilitates the work of memory, naming, writing because it stimulates, it values ​​and does not judge. The positive feeling that the patient feels promotes the success of the exercises in a climate of trust.

Lilou Brown

The fruit of several months of work

This news is the result of several months of work and reflection with Lilou Brun, leader of the association Happy with dogs. She is currently preparing for a university degree in clinical neuropsychology at the University of Caen.

Gradually, in recent months, it was first Lulu, an already trained and experienced dog, who made it possible to test the effects on patients. A first step, which also made it possible to confirm the speech therapist’s motivation.

Lilou Brun then trained her, as she can with other health professionals, especially with psychologists. “I quickly realized that the animal could create favorable working conditions with the patient,” assures Marine Chesnais. I did not hesitate to continue the experiment and move on. Many sessions, both inside and outside the company, were conducted with tailored support.

Conditions that promote self-confidence

If activities involving animals to promote the well-being of participants, generally in the context of collective sessions, such as in accommodation for dependent elderly people (Ehpad) or medical educational institutions (IME), have become common, they are much less so in the therapeutic context. “If only by its presence, the animal creates favorable conditions for achieving a therapeutic goal,” explains Lilou Brun. It allows us to reach a goal that we could not achieve without it, or at least it acts as an accelerator. »

As part of her work as a speech therapist, Marine Chesnais aims to prevent, assess and treat language difficulties or disorders both orally and in writing. In children, as in adults. “And a one-on-one with an adult speech therapist alone is not the same as having a professional in the company of a dog,” adds Lilou Brun. The spontaneity of the exchanges manifests itself more quickly, by the simple fact that the dog quickly becomes the subject of discussion. “Freedom of speech in a speech therapist’s office, it’s valuable …

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The well-being of the patient and … the animal

The two women in particular designed exercises involving Shaman, based on a card game. The patient is asked to arrange them in a double table, depending on the location of the animal in the picture and where it is. “In addition to the cognitive work that we perform during this exercise, the patient is invited to give instructions to the dog. Everything is more concrete. The exercise is all the more effective when, when the dog is performing, the patient’s self-confidence increases, especially in children.

It helps to anchor success in the patient. Here again, we realize that the animal has created an environment that promotes therapeutic work.

Lilou Brown

The two women remind us that the dog is not forced on anyone. The session in his presence takes place on a voluntary basis. Animal welfare is also at the heart of the project. “It all started with our desire, with my companion and our children, to have a dog. And it was out of the question to leave him alone at home all day on weekdays. When I discovered animal-assisted therapy and what Happy With Dogs offered, I decided to entrust Lilou Brun with the choice and training of my future dog. »

An evolutionary support

Lilou Brun guarantees the dog’s well-being. “I give keys to the masters I follow so that they can quickly detect signs of stress in the animal, and so that they react accordingly. I also teach them to assume the right behavior, on the physical level, towards the dog when they are in their office. »

She selects the dogs that can qualify for this type of activity from breeders that she works with regularly. She discovers within a litter of dogs that are too confident in themselves, bubbly, and who would therefore have difficulty flourishing in a closet context.

To make a good communicator dog, you must have good genetic origins for behavioral balance and health, natural abilities, very early training to orientate oneself towards a type of behavior, then specific training with coding so that the dog realizes instructions on request. It is a rare alchemy, a long and careful work.

Lilou Brown

The health aspect does not go unnoticed. All animals are vaccinated, dewormed and professionally cared for every three months. They also received antiparasitic treatment. “I guarantee that the puppy will recover in case of mistakes. We work with living things, and we can therefore make mistakes,” says Lilou Brun. She estimates that trained dogs are trained after 18 months, while they start them earlier, as it is the case with Shaman.The experience nourishes his and the health staff’s learning.Every day brings its share of new observations and ideas that are invaluable to the trio and to the therapists who are asked to visit an animal in the future.

Practice. The Association Happy with dogs, tel. 06 37 49 61 49

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