Therapy Dogs Program in Croatia Receives International Recognition

Anything worth doing always

starts with a small idea.

This Program started when Leo's mother and father decided to help their small son, Leo, express himself through animals.

Leo is a boy who has half a heart, Down Syndrome and multiple seizures. He lives in Sisak, Croatia with his parents.

Leo's parents did not know when they searched for some special dogs to work with him where this small idea would go...for them, it was always just about Leo...

Renata and her husband searched for two dogs to work with their son. They found Evie and Heidi, two very special Havanese dogs.

Evie and Heidi were sent to school to the Bolha Academy where Vlado trained them to work with Leo. They worked very hard.

Heidi and Evie were the first graduates from the Academy to work with Leo.

This idea worked so well, that Leo's mother made the decision to share Evie and Heidi with other children in the schools in Sisak, Croatia.

The "Dogs in Schools Project" was a huge success. The children loved having the Havanese in their classroom and the teachers and staff were open and inviting to the idea!

Now these two special Havanese are working with traumatized children in Zagreb at the Therapy Centre there.

From a very small idea, Prof Renata Fridrih and her Team have made a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of so many children in Croatia. They continue to build on an idea where the Havanese dog is key to the program's success.

And it all started because of the love of two parents for one small boy.....Leo!!!

You saw it first on! Please click on all of the links in this post - read the stories and look at the pictures. They show how this program has grown, step by step. This is a program that is now receiving international recognition.

Congratulations to the Therapy Dogs Program in Croatia from!!!

"The implementation of the holistic approach in working with dogs and clients was initiated by the forefather of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud. Guidelines of his achievements and work with dogs as a supplement to diagnostic and therapeutic work with patients suffering from traumatisation proved a good example in practice. This holistic approach in training dogs is novelty in the world and it is considered innovative while showing excellent result. The choice of Bichon Havanese breed proved to be the best choice, because its characteristics suit children who are chronic patients and thus the biggest part of this population who need the help of a dog, can be included from their pre-school age.

Dog training is conducted in five modules, for the needs of children with chronic diseases, for special needs children and for abused and/or neglected children. The aim is to mitigate or prevent the effects of traumatisation.

The project is supervised by Vladimir Bolha, a dog trainer and international kinology judge, who also trains working dogs and sporting dog breeds with 42 years of experience in working with dogs.

Project leader from Association Naša Djeca Sisak is Renata Fridrih, an educator – speech therapist of the Child and Youth Protection Centre of the City of Zagreb. The number of partners from Croatia included in the project has been twenty-one so far (elementary schools, rehabilitation centres, health institutions, counselling services for children and youth, children’s home, non-government organisations, prison). New partners from the health and education systems are being prepared to participate, which shows an increasing interest in the project.

There are seven Bichon Havanese dogs in the project (Evie, Heidi, Nia, Sevi, Ziggy, Švrčo, Aya). Their presence always stimulates in children a feeling of pleasure and smiling, satisfaction, empathy and a wish to make friends with the dogs.

Results of the study by Flander, G., Persoglia – Petrac, A. and Fridrih, R. (2016), presented on the World Paediatric Congress in Canada, show that dogs trained by the holistic approach in this project significantly contribute to reducing stress and to positive reactions in pre-school children."

I'm Coming to See You Leo!

It is my plan to travel to Croatia this Fall to visit Leo, Renata, Viktor Boltha, Karolina Hitrec, the teachers and the children in the schools of Sisak, Croatia where Evie and Heidi and the other Havanese are currently working.

I am so looking forward to that experience because I believe I will find a Havanese Community built upon love and hope - nothing more and nothing less. The Therapy Dogs Team in Croatia is quite unique from the competitive world of showing, breeding and selling puppies that I have been exposed to over the past year in Canada.

It is my intention to work with Renata to publish some academic pieces about her program and find a dog magazine in North America that will welcome their altruistic view of the World of the Havanese.

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