Dog training for high school students in special education

The sound of dogs barking is usually not a sound associated with high school. But these are sounds that students hear when a group of dogs with a dog trainer arrive at Ohr Torah Stone Derech Avot High School in Efrat each week.

Students in special school classes who are enrolled in a special dog training program for their Abitur learn how to care for and train dogs. The students not only learn dog training, but also the biology of dogs.

“The major made me go to school and I enjoyed it more,” said 17-year-old student Yaal Riskin, who graduated from the program with four other students this year.

The education program is offered in schools across the country, but Derech Avot is one of the few religious schools that offers it as a major.

Most of the 500 students at Efrat High School study traditional subjects such as physics, mathematics, and the Talmud. There are also 100 students in the school who are in special education programs; some of whom are studying dog training.

Rabbi Yoni Hollander, the director of Derech Avot, said when he started school four years ago he wanted to find a program for students who have difficulty “sitting in class.” When he and his staff heard about the dog program, “we decided to do it.”

While some find the noises of the four-legged friends in the courtyard annoying, Rabbi Hollander said: “This is how schools should be – lively places full of happiness.”

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if (window.location.pathname.indexOf (“656089”)! = -1) {console.log (“hedva connatix”); document.getElementsByClassName (“divConnatix”)[0].style.display = “none”;} The students lead the dogs through the school during their training and learn various skills. For example, Riskin explained that dogs are used for their sense of smell; Students teach them what to “smell” of and then how to monitor the smell. Riskin and his colleagues learned how to teach dogs defense and attack, how to look for people, and also trained their canines to hunt for a specific smell – in their case, tobacco.

Rabbi Hollander stated that many of the students would like to join the program, but it is specifically aimed at students with emotional or learning disabilities or attention disorders such as ADD or ADHD that make it difficult to study in a traditional classroom. Students with other special needs, such as those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASS), a developmental disorder that can cause social, communicative, and behavioral problems, enroll in other courses that suit their special needs and learning styles. He added that the high school strives to include students with special educational needs in as many mainstream classes as possible.

Dog training not only sensitizes students to the dogs they are working with, but also to themselves.

“I can see that the students become more responsible as they go on to study,” says Yair Blumenfeld, head of dog training at the school. “It’s a gradual process. By working with animals, they develop better communication skills. “

Riskin said he always loved dogs and always enjoyed being with them. When there was a presentation about different fields of study and he heard about the dog training, he signed up immediately. He said he was interested in olfactory research, but the downside was that he didn’t like the smell of the dog food – salmon – that stayed on his hands after the puppies were fed.

Avishay Hershkovitz, the dog trainer, teaches the students how to work with dogs in a practical way every week. Students learn how to teach dogs to sit, lie down, and stop, which most consider conventional dog training techniques, with encouraging words and dog treats. But students also learn advanced skills.

Simulations take place in the school. In one example, a student is hiding in a classroom and the dog (with his student trainer on a leash) searches the corridor to find him. As soon as the dog has scented him, he grabs him and does not let go of him until the student trainer orders the dog to do so. (Participants in these exercises wear padded bite suits to protect themselves.) The trainers learn how to ensure that the dog behaves appropriately and that the attacked remain unharmed under all the padding.

Riskin said one of his best memories was when the trainer brought puppies to school.

“We had to get them used to biting an attacker,” said Riskin. “To do that, [we got] in the [padded] Suit up and let’s just bite five pups while the other students cheer them on. ”He was pleased that the teachers taught the subject in a way that was fun to study. Riskin said he found the theoretical studies “difficult and boring, but I found them very interesting and fun”.

He said the dog training program made school a happier place for him. Rabbi Hollander said that animals at school “add a lot of variety to the study week”.

“I see big changes in our students,” he said. “And I’m sure that dog training is part of it.”

EAR TORAH Stone is a modern Orthodox movement of 30 institutions and programs around the world. There are six gender-segregated high schools in the Ohr Torah Stone Network. Each institution offers education to a different population, and each creates its own unique programs to best support its student body.

At Derech Avot High School, all IDF graduates serve. Some take a year to study before enrolling. In addition to the Abitur, the pupils of the dog training receive a final certificate with which they can advance with dogs on the way to military service. A student who attended the training course applied for service in the IDF Oketz elite canine unit, which uses dogs as part of their mission. After graduating earlier this month, Riskin also plans to join the army. When he gets older to have dogs of his own?

“I don’t currently have any dogs in the house, but I did once,” said Riskin. “And I will certainly have that in the future as well.”

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