Our care programme first and foremost is open to youth between twelve and eighteen years of age who have already had problems with the law. Emotional and attachment problems, ADHD and dissociation are given extra attention. Clients can follow an individually tailored programme on a voluntary basis.
Adults or youth with no acute psychiatric problems are also welcome at the Patrasche Foundation to make contacts, regain self-confidence, … We treat sensitive themes for which the animal functions as metaphor or intermediary figure.
Adults between eighteen and forty-five years of age convicted of a crime who come to us for victim-offender mediation must complete the full programme, regardless of the number of days or hours imposed by the court.
In the care programme, we use training as a metaphor for education based on positive affirmation, empathy and respect. Clients receive training in positive leadership, emotional intelligence and empathy by interpreting the dog’s body language. In contrast to a person, dogs are unable to hide their feelings.
Training a dog means training oneself at the same time, and thus the achievement of individual goals. We strive for positive development with which both client and dog gain the strength to re-enter society.
We are unable to accept people with an acute psychiatric problem and/or an acute drugs problem in our therapy programme.
Diëgo, age 17, 1 year in therapy
I’ve not always done the right things in my life. And I didn’t feel much like doing anything about it. Talk, always talk, they demanded, and I simply don’t like to talk!
At the dog training centre I didn’t have to talk but train, and not simply train, but learn how to train an assistance dog. They were convinced I could do it. I was allowed to train with a real assistance dog named Willy.
I learned how to show Willy that I liked him. I also learned what I’m good at (they say that I’m a good trainer). Willy also listens well to me since I am a positive leader. When I wanted to train my own dog in the same way, it was much more difficult. My dog is not used to listening and I had to be much more patient and reward much more than with Willy. My stepmother has been following me and thus learned that you can accomplish much more by rewarding and being clear than by punishing. She also saw that I had become good at something.
Anna, age 13, 3 months in therapy
I was actually a bit afraid of these huge dogs, but that changed quickly. It was also difficult for me to be a leader, which is something new for me. I usually quickly give in, but with the dogs, I had to stay firm and clearly state what I wanted. I learned that dogs think in packs and that I must be clear where the dog’s rank is in the pack (below me). I feel stronger when the dogs finally listen to me. I also now see much better where my own place is in the ‘class pack’ and in our ‘family pack’. I now see why they don’t take account of me.
Ruben, age 13, 6 months in therapy
I used to be in the habit of hurting my own dog when I was angry. That dog was also impossible. With Willy the assistance dog, I’ve learned to stay friendly and clearly ask it what I want. This is difficult for me and I’m not always successful. Plus everything is different in the dog centre compared to the institution. I am being trained to be a trainer and thus don’t need to talk all the time. There are plenty of laughs and there is always chocolate! They also made a book about me there, for example how I was as a baby and the things I do well, what my family does well, and the like. After I have my diploma as assistant instructor, I am allowed to train with my own Jack Russell and I may teach my mother how to do it. But first I must earn my diploma.
Raf, age 35, 9 months in training
In any case, it’s different in the training centre than at all the other places I’ve been for counselling. I always think that I can’t do anything good, but training in any case appears to be something I can do. I obtained my diploma several weeks ago. This is my first diploma. Still it is not easy for me. I always think that the dogs surely will not do what I ask, but now it almost always works. When Sultan is lying next to me, it’s much easier for me to talk about anything, which is different than being at a psychiatrist. I’m no longer required by the court to attend the training programme, but I’m not yet ready to stop.