Thanks to a joint project with Spain’s Association of Dog-Assisted Therapies, or AIAP Costa Rica has begun to train service dogs to help incorporate disabled individuals into society. Miguel Angel Signes is one of the instructors in charge of training the service dog but he is in training as well as he is learning how to train a service dog from the AIAP President Nuria Luengo from Spain. The hope is that Xena is the first of many dogs who are trained in country to help those with disabilities in Costa Rica to become more independent and better able to become active members of society.
Aaron is a 7 year old autistic boy who will be receiving Xena the little yellow Labrador as soon as she is properly trained to help him. Aaron is autistic and gets very upset and stressed in unfamiliar, loud and busy surrounding. Aaron’s family hopes that having Xena around will lower his stress and anxiety levels. Things as simple as Xena laying her head in his lap to pet will take his focus away from his environment and put it on her his Service Dog.
The project is very much a novelty in Costa Rica as there have never been any service dogs trained in the country or imported there. An even bigger novelty since this is a brand new program and only one dog is being trained at the moment Aaron and his family have been able to go and meet Xena and have therapy sessions with her already even though she is still a 4 month old puppy and not trained enough to help him out in the real world. Usually a service dog is trained in another state or city and the handler and dog don’t get to meet until right before the dog is to move in with the person and assist them in dealing with incorporating into society. Xena and Aaron have already started to bond and will continue to do so until she is a fully trained service dog and can go and live with him and his family.