Caredog School of Sweden

The Swedish model for professional work with therapy dogs

When we started The Caredog School (Swedish: Vårdhundskolan) in 2008, the word caredog (Swedish: vårdhund) did not exist. We chose this word to set it apart from work with therapy dogs which by and large is done by unpaid volunteers. In our work, we wanted to create a new profession: a professional caredog team, paid to do their work, employed like other staff, or hired as consultant for interventions with a caredog.

By now (July 2015) 200 persons have finished their one year caredog course. Caredog teams are working in approximately 70 care units. That may not sound as many. But, after all, Sweden has only 9 million inhabitants. The course has a firm ground through a very strict standard, set by the Swedish Standards Institute, SIS.

The Swedish Model

Some factors are specific:

  • Handlers are experienced health professionals who also passed the 1 year AAT program at university level.
  • The AAT consultations are prescribed, evaluated and documented by licensed health professionals.
  • The handler and the dog is part of the regular staff
  • The dog's participation are included in the management system for each unit.

Professional care dog teams has been very successful in Sweden. In more and more municipalities, these teams are part of regular staff. There are very often reports in the media about the great health benefits of these professional teams. Several municipalities have also reported that there are economic benefits, including (but not limited to) the reduced drug consumption. It is overwhelming much reports about all the positive effects of increased well-being and the good effects that this entails for both function better and feel better. There was one patient who said that  Care dog teams are like smiling brigade and there were many who agree.

I am a registered nurse since 1976, specialized in psychiatry and with an MA in Caring Sciences. I have worked for many years in geriatric care and as well as in psychiatric care, both as an employee and as a manager for more than 10 years. In 2006 I got a license from Delta Society in USA for work as instructor for Pet Partners. Since 2008 I am manager of the education at Svenska Vårdhundskolan (The Caredog School of Sweden). My first book on the subject was published in 2010: The Professional Therapy Dog. It gives a broad view of what a Caredog is and does. The second, Better Care With a Caredog. ABC for therapy dogs,was published in 2011. It is a textbook for students taking our basic course. Both books are available in Swedish and in English.

The books can be ordered from info@vardhundskolan.se. The first book costs 200 SEK, the second 500 SEK. In both cases freight cost is added.

I'm so happy to be working together with my husband and developing training for future team of professional social service dogs for AAT. My husband, Sven-G. Hultman has a PhD in a related subject. His research and work has been all about the health benefits of contact with nature. He is retired from his job as manager of a foundation. He do most of the administration in our company and and together we are constantly working for improvement and development of training of handlers and dogs who will work professionally with AAT.

We have also a family based breeding program with labradoodles, www.labradoodle.se. Many of our puppies has as adults passed the tough requirements and are working as certified care dogs.