Is your dog a social creature?
Singapore has a lack of structured dog interactions, and aaisg is here to change this! If your dog is a social creature and is looking for a meaningful way to interact with humans, this may be a great fit for you. Join us as we learn more and try it for ourselves.
What is aaisg
First off, what is aaisg? Animal Assisted Interactions Singapore is Singapore’s first social enterprise specializing in animal-assisted interactions and interventions. They seek meaningful and life-giving interactions between humans and animals, working and growing towards better, healthier communities. They operate on the idea that we can be Better Together, which resonates with the team here at Good Dog People!
What do they do
In essence, they design and facilitate evidence-based programs with community groups; including children's homes, special needs facilities, aged care homes and community outreach centers as well private sessions for businesses. During the pandemic, you may have seen their program to help children learn about the vaccination process and help calm nerves through interacting with their dogs!
What do their events look like - Pet’s Day Out!
We recently joined aaisg for AVS Pets Day Out on 30 April in Jurong Lake Gardens. They graciously let us tag along for their Doggie Detective Program, where their canine-handler teams helped a group of 16 kids understand how to appropriately interact with dogs.
The event was very structured, with clearly defined activities and goals laid out for each section of the program. The kids had a presentation about ways to interact with a new dog, practice sessions with stuffed animals and then got to meet some trained dogs to practice their new skills in a controlled environment. For the dogs and handlers, their extensive training with aaisg is necessary, as each interaction is different, but the dog and team must always display appropriate behaviour. It’s also vital that the handler can read their dog’s body language so that they know when they need a break.
The kids absolutely went wild over the program. Many of them were animal lovers already, but were not sure how to interact with new dogs in the right way. Some were considering getting a dog at home, but didn’t have experience and had lots of great questions for the teams. They even got to offer snacks to the dogs, the yummy Grandma Lucy’s Organic Oven Baked Pumpkin Dog Treats which seemed to please everyone!
It was great to see everyone having a great time, while learning in a controlled environment. We also noticed safety was a huge part of the session, from maintaining proper control of children and animals to hygienic considerations like hand disinfection throughout. After considering how many interactions the dogs may have at a session, hand sanitizer on humans before and after is awesome, but also consider a doggy wipe like Absorb Plus Antibacterial Hypoallergenic Pet Wipes to wipe down fur and paws after.
Our Evaluation as an aaisg Caring Canine Team
After seeing the positive impact this had on the dogs and the kids, we decided to learn more about becoming an aaisg Caring Canine team. Stepping up to the challenge is Kuma the Golden Retreiver, our resident test dog who is always up for a challenge. She's accompanied by her human, Lynnette.
The first step of the process is to contact aaisg. After expressing interest, they’ll send you a questionnaire to fill out, which takes about 10 minutes. In general, the questionnaire is a chance for their team to gather some basic information about your dog, their personality and why you would be a good fit for aaisg. It’s also vital they understand the bond between the human and dog, so there’s some questions about how you would handle certain situations or things your dog does or doesn’t like.
To have meaningful interactions, humans and animals need to work together! So after the survey a member of their team will contact to set up an in person meeting and evaluation. The purpose of this in person evaluation is to see how the dog and owner interact, respond to social or environmental triggers, handle meeting new people or other animals, temperament, etc. Expect the evaluation to take around 45 minutes and it will typically be in a park that is unfamiliar to your dog to see how they handle a new environment.
Miss Kuma and Lynnette met the aaisg team on a Tuesday morning for the evaluation. Some of the behaviors we chatted about were:
- How does Kuma handle meeting a new person?
- How does she react to children, elderly, construction noises, environmental triggers?
- What is her body language when she’s relaxed, nervous, etc
- How does she tell you she’s had enough?
- What does she normally gravitate towards outside?
During evaluation the aaisg team role played some typical behaviors that we might experience during an interaction. They asked questions a child might, like “will she bite me” or “where can I pet her?” They gave her some treats, both open palm and pinched between fingers. They gave her hugs and shook paws with her. They touched her tail and ears and there may have even been a nose boop in there as well. The team also brought along one of their dogs to see how Kuma would interact with other dogs.
We also took Kuma for a walk so they could evaluate how we work together. Proper handling and control of your dog at all times is critical in this, so if you are considering this for your dog, make sure you have the proper equipment to control your dog at all times. Kuma wears the DOG Copenhagen Comfort Walk Air Harness, which we like because it has multiple attachment points, is very lightweight, and has a neat disconnect point around her neck to take the harness off without going over her head. For us, this is the perfect way to maintain our connection outside, but you and your dog may prefer a different style. Regardless of which harness or collar you use, the key is to make sure it works for you and allows you to control your dog in a way that is comfortable for both of you. Same goes for your leash.
After our walk & meet and greet of new dogs and people in the park, we returned to our original bench. Being a warm day, we provided the dogs with some water from our Ruffwear Quencher™ Collapsible Food & Water Dog Bowl We chatted a bit more about what aaisg does, what to expect as a handler and what the application process looks like.
If Kuma was continuing in the program, we would sign up with aaisg for training sessions which are AAI visits at community and social service facilities, a bespoke mentorship program and a nearly 100 hour online diploma program. At the end of the training, we would be given a competence assessment, and on completion we could join as members and engage in events. One thing to note is that the program is designed to meet international standards for Animal Assisted Interactions, so the accreditation process requires both financial and time commitment to complete.
How can I get involved
aaisg is looking for dogs (and their humans) who love social interactions! The dogs need to be over 18 months old, well socialized, comfortable and confident in unfamiliar environments with unfamiliar humans, able to interact appropriately and toilet trained. There are additional requirements for the human handler, as well as financial and time commitments to consider. If you’d like to learn more about how to join, check out this link for more information or to get in touch with aaisg directly.
GPD Partnership - Sponsor an Event!
Animal-Assisted interactions are a great way for your dog to use their social skills and bring more meaning to their daily routine. But if becoming a handling team is not an option, please consider helping to contribute to one of their upcoming events through Good Dog People! We’ve decided to partner with aaisg to sponsor some of their upcoming programs. If you’d like to be a part of this, we are looking for sponsors for this upcoming event at Gladiolus Place. 100% of the money paid to GDP goes directly to aaisg for this program. Although participation by sponsors is not allowed, do know you would be helping a girl take part in this program which would have profound benefits to her emotional and mental well being. Keep an eye out for updates on our social media to see the impact this has for girls at Gladiolus Place!
Lynnette is a lover of all animals (looking at you red pandas) and a fur mom to Amaya the Singapore Special and Kuma the Golden Retriever. In her free time she enjoys reading and scuba diving and has a passion for cooking and baking unhealthy treats for her husband.