June 27, 2021

Two New Facility Dog Teams Trained Domestically by Shine On! Kids Begin Work in Japanese Hospitals

Shine On Kids, a certified non-profit organization incorporated in 2006, has introduced its Hospital Facility Dog Program to three hospitals in Japan over the past 10 years. (Wakamatsu Building, 7th floor, 3-3-6 NihonbashiHoncho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; President: Kimberly Forsythe).

Two new Hospital Facility Dog Teams are starting work this summer thanks to Shine On! Kids’ Facility Dog Training Project launched in fiscal year 2019. This brings the total number of children’s hospitals in Japan with Facility Dogs to four.

Photo 1: Ty (left: male Golden Retriever, born February 23, 2019) Masa (right: male Labrador Retriever, born March 7, 2019). Photo taken inside the National Center for Child Health and Development, where the final training sessions were conducted.

Hospital Facility Dogs are professionally trained to work in a hospital/children’s hospital as a member of the medical staff to complement and enhance medical treatments and therapies. Shine On! Kids has developed a program to train nurses to be dog handlers, pair them with highly trained Hospital Facility Dogs and dispatch the nurse-dog teams to children’s hospitals in Japan.

The treatment of children with serious illnesses such as pediatric cancer requires tests and procedures that are physically and mentally taxing, as well as prolonged hospitalization. To support these children and their families, both the Hospital Facility Dogs and their handlers must have a high level of expertise in executing interventions and support activities, and a thorough understanding of infection control risks and protocols.

Shine On! Kids has raised and professionally trained two candidate dogs through its Hospital Facility Dog trial Training Program that started in fiscal 2019. Two nurses were hired to pair with the candidate dogs. The following training and aptitude screening for the candidate dogs and the nurses who were candidate handlers were executed in accordance with the standards of Assistance Dogs International in the United States.

Reference : December 2019 Release “Japan’s First Hospital Facility Dog Training Program”

1 Handler Training Overview

Approximately 80 hours of training (including practical training, classroom training, and several tests) were conducted over the course of a month using materials originally created by Dr. Bonnie Bergin and utilized by Assistance Dogs organizations around the world, including Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, which has 20 years of experience in training handlers. All dog handling technique instruction was provided by Marina Rodriguez. Marina is a Certified OT, KPA-CTP professional dog trainer and a member of IAABC and AAII. For nearly 10 years she has worked as an assistance dog trainer in a variety of organizations, including ADI-certified assistance dog training organizations. Yayoi Suzuki served as the interpreter during the course.

Shine On! Kids was fortunate to have the assistance of Dr. Cate Dorr as a clinical consultant. She is the current Clinical Director for Bergin University of Canine Studies and the Director of Hospital Facility Dog programs for Assistance Dogs in Hawaii/Assistance Dogs Northwest. Dr. Dorr was involved in the training of Bailey, the first Hospital Facility Dog in Japan.

Originally, Dr. Dorr was scheduled to visit Japan in April, but due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, her visit was postponed. Therefore, consultations during the training period were conducted online, and various tasks were divided among Shine On! Kids’ staff: Yuko Morita (RN, 11 years experience as a handler) and Keiko Suzuki (RN, 6 years experience as a handler) provided medical guidance, and Natsuko Murata (Ph.D.) provided hands-on coordination.

【Teaching material】Bergin University of Canine Studies “BASICS & ABC’s of the SMARTEST DOG TRAINING”.
(Translation: Yayoi Suzuki, Supervisor: Natsuko Murata), Original teaching materials
【Instructors】 Marina Rodriguez, Cate Dorr, Yayoi Suzuki (interpreter), Yuko Morita, Keiko Suzuki, Mayuko Ohashi, Natsuko Murata

Photo 2: Dr. Dorr as a classroom instructor. She explained canine development and behavior in an easy-to-understand manner, using actual videos and evidence, such as the fact that puppies can learn “SIT” before they are even 5.5 weeks old.
Photo 3: Hands-on training at the Momiji House in the National Center for Child Health and Development (NCCHD).
Marina Rodriguez teaches all the dog handling techniques, and Yuko Morita teaches the medical handling techniques.
Interpreter Yayoi Suzuki played the role of the patient, and a stuffed animal was used for role-playing to reduce the load
on the dog.
Photo 4: Shine On! Kids’ program is unique in that nurses serve as full-time handlers. Therefore, lectures by handlers were newly added to this training. Mayuko Ohashi (middle of the screen: RN, 2 years experience as a handler) took the lead in instructing the new handlers how to make the most of their strengths as nurses.

2 Qualification Examination

The aptitude screening of the handlers was conducted according to Assistance Dogs International standards for trainers, handlers and qualifying dogs. As this was Shine On! Kids’ first trial Hospital Facility Dog Training Program, Ph.D. Mariko Yamamoto of Shine On! Kids’ Advisory Board evaluated the aptitude of facility dogs to ensure objectivity.

Aptitude test for facility dogs

【Method】 Assistance Dogs International “Public Access Test”
【Evaluation】 Yuko Morita (Program Leader, Handler)
Mariko Yamamoto (Advisory Board Member, Ph.D. in Anthrozoology)

Photo 5: Conducting a public access test at Shizuoka Children’s Hospital. The test was conducted by Marina Rodriguez with Yuko Morita (left) scoring the results. The dogs were evaluated in 14 areas, including whether they could maintain a controlled state in a corridor where various medical equipment came and went.

Comment by Mariko Yamamoto:
In the public access test, there are times when the handler and dog are evaluated in situations where there is a lot of stimulation or a need to respond flexibly, and both teams, Ty and Masa and their handlers, were able to maintain their calm behaviors.

Even with Marina, their dog trainer, by their side during the test, Ty and Masa’s focus was on the new handlers, confirming that they had built a relationship with their handlers during the limited one month training together.

The relationship between the dogs and the handlers, and the appropriate actions taken according to each situation, demonstrated that the handler training was thorough and rich in content.

Aptitude test for handlers
【Method】 “Working Final Exam – HOSPITAL FACILITY DOG”.
*This exam was created based on content from multiple internationally accredited (ADI) assistance dog organizations.
Yuko Morita (program leader, handler) for National Center for Child Health and Development
Keiko Suzuki (handler) for Shizuoka Children’s Hospital
Marina Rodriguez (certified professional dog trainer) for Both

Photo 6: Handler Midterm Exam at the National Center for Child Health and Development. About 30 areas were evaluated, including infection control/risk management procedures before and after entering the ward, walking safely in the corridors, and whether the interaction with patients was appropriate.

3 Donation Support

We would like to express our gratitude for the following support for this program:

”Tooth Fairy” Project

This is a social contribution project promoted by the Nippon Foundation in cooperation with the Japan Dental Association. Donations of crowns and other metal objects removed from dental clinics during treatment are recycled and used to support children with intractable diseases or living in poverty in Japan and overseas. In addition to the support through donations, volunteer dentists provide oral care to children with disabilities and intractable diseases.

Shine On! Kids has received continuous financial support since FY2015, which is used to introduce our Hospital Facility Dog Program to new hospitals and spread awareness of the Program.

Morimura Houmeikai Fundation

Morimura Houmeikai was established and registered in 1914 as a pioneer of private grant-making foundations in Japan. Its activities date back to 1901, and for more than a century it has been providing continuous support for fields such as education, medical care, and social welfare.

Shine On! Kids has received support for the introduction of the post-graduate team at Shizuoka Children’s Hospital this year.

YOKOHAMA Magokoro Fund

This is a social contribution fund by Yokohama Rubber Co. It was established in May 2016 with the aim of providing financial assistance to NPOs and NGOs working on environmental conservation and human rights protection, as well as donations for major disasters.

Shine On! Kids has been supported since fiscal year 2019, and this fiscal year, we have received partial support for the expenses required to replace the current Hospital Facility Dog Team at Shizuoka Children’s Hospital.

Additional Support from 240 Individuals, Companies and Charitable Institutions

We’d also like to thank the hundreds of individual donors and companies who have supported Shine On! Kids on this journey through the “Training Support Plus” donation plan as well as those who attended and/or donated through our fundraising events.

One of the new Hospital Facility Dog teams will be publicly introduced to the National Center for Child Health and
Development in July. A press conference will be held with the hospital on July 1 to make the official announcement.

The other team will be introduced as a successor team to take over the activities at Shizuoka Children’s Hospital. Details are scheduled to be announced in early September.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Shizuoka Children’s Hospital, Kanagawa Children’s Medical Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Children’s Medical Center, and the Shine On! Kids Advisory Board for their cooperation in our challenge to raise the first Hospital Facility Dogs in Japan.

We would also like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the National Center for Child Health and Development for embracing and introducing this program at their hospital, and to the many people who supported us with donations and volunteering – especially our devoted puppy sitters.


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phone:03-6202-7262 (Mon.-Fri. 10:00-17:00)
◆ Shine On! Kids

What we do
Founded in 2006, the creation of the organization was inspired by the smiles and courage of Mark and Kim Ferrisʼ son Tyler, who spent his short life battling infant leukemia in Tokyo. After they lost Tyler, they wanted to create something positive for families going through what they had endured. The medical system in Japan is one of the best in the world, but the area of patient support is still relatively undeveloped. SOK aims to create a complete pediatric patient support system in Japan: from the moment of diagnosis, throughout treatment and after discharge from hospital.

SOK has introduced its unique programs to hospitals throughout Japan: Beads of Courage to 24 hospitals; the Hospital Facility Dog Program to 4 hospitals; and annual “Camp Courage” workshops for childhood cancer survivors. http://sokids.org/