Welcome to the Homepage of Marzipan Vom Matthiasberg "Mador"!
(HCH Liam Vom Matthiasberg x HCH Hildegard Vom Matthiasberg) Breeders: Lajos Mészáros, Monika Nyitrai
Owner: Leidl Andrea H-1108 Budapest, Pázsitfû u. 1. Hungary Mobile: +36-70-315-4758 E-mail: leidla@hotmail.com

About me
Dog training
Mador story




Introduction - Basics - Training - Mador useability - Presentations - Mador references - Bibliography - We will find a solution!


I have heard that traditionally, leonbergers are very useful for developing children with "special needs", they help to improve elderly people's mood and increase their level of activity, etc. Animal assisted development and education is a full speciality, and when Mador came to me, I had no information about it at all. I instinctly felt, however, that one day, we would go into this direction with Mador. This is why I only used positive methods and reinforcement during his training, I expected friendly behavior towards people in all situations, training to attack people was out of question. I paid extra attention to socialization and reinforcement of our friendship, confidence in each other.

I have gathered many information since then, both at home and abroad. We can find many excellent specialized books but in Hungary there are no broadly accepted norms and regulations. Comparing to progress abroad (i.e. in Australia, there are visiting therapy dogs funded by the State), here in Hungary, in most places the dogs can not even enter into the institutions, kindergartens, schools. At the beginning the laws only knew the police dogs and the guide dogs (for blind people), now the helping dogs are also introduced. Clean, healthy, vaccinated, obedient, child-loving, specially trained and certified (with yearly exams) dogs with their handlers, are slowly treated differently. The Hungarian Therapy and Helping Dogs Society Association (www.matesze.hu) has been fund as nation-wide professional "umbrella organisation". A positive progress has already started but we still have to develop. Here on this page now I only write basic information about therapy with dogs, I show you how Mador is and where he can be best used.

For more photos: see Mador references


Basic forms of animal assisted programs

To speak the same language, I describe the 3 basic forms of animal assisted programs that are widespread in the international documentations (I'm sure you can find different definitions but here is the essential):

1. AAA - Animal Assisted Activity - relaxing, sometimes educational activities with animal interaction. Participation of specialized personnel (i.e. medicinal teacher, pshycologist, conductor, etc.) is not required. Planning and documentation level is low. Objectives are: good mood, positive feelings.

2. AAT - Animal Assisted Therapy - goal-oriented therapy relations in a planned and well documented form. The main participants and their relationships can be seen below (so the handler is not dealing with the children (Patient) but with the therapeutist and the dog).

Terápia szereplõinek kapcsolata

3. AAE - Animal Assisted Education - classroom interaction specialized to schoolboys/girls, with their active participation. Objectives include to help learning the given subject, to improve/change inter-children social interactions, to decrease/eliminate "clicks" or "gangs", to motivate children, to increase level of concentration, to minimize behavioral issues, to resolve personal problems, etc.

For more photos: see Mador references


Therapy Animal Handler training

In 2008 I started the Therapy Animal Handler training organized by the Mancsos Segítõtársaink Terápiás Állatok és Oktatási Alapítvány (Our Helpers With Paws Therapy Animals and Education Foundation) to learn the theoretical background for my work started in 2007, and to provide a more structured practical work with Mador. I would like to express my acknowledgements, here again, to Györgyi Gaál for realizing the training course and for her constant practical aide and advices.

The Therapy Animal Handler training had 3 main sections:

1. Theoretical course and exam
2. Animal suitability assessment
3. Practical exam

1. Agenda and lecturers of the Therapy Animal Handling training theoretical course:

  • a. Professional basics:
    • Basics of Pedagogy - Márta Farkas
    • Basics of Medicinal Pedagogy - Anett Illés
    • Basics of Psychology and Psychiatry - Edit Kalo
    • Basics of Conductive Pedagogy - Katalin Tóth
    • Human-animal relationships, overview of specialities in human lifetime - Györgyi Gaál
  • b. Processes and regulations of animal assisted programs:
    • Theoretical background of animal assisted programs - Györgyi Gaál
    • AAA, AAT and AAE - Györgyi Gaál
    • Potential errors in practice, improvisations, cooperation with professionals - Györgyi Gaál
    • Legal regulations, animal protection, ethics, animal health regulations - Györgyi Gaál
    • Supervision - Tamara Kutasi
  • c. Involvement of animals into programs:
    • Useability of different animal species - Györgyi Gaál
    • The dog (domestication, etology) - Györgyi Gaál
    • The cat (domestication, etology) - Györgyi Gaál
  • d. Feeding, environment, training:
    • Theoretical basics of animal training - Györgyi Gaál
    • Feeding - Györgyi Gaál
    • Environment for animals- Györgyi Gaál

At the end of the course, there was a 100-points theoretical exam that I passed with 91%, as best of the group.

It is not enough to have a handler with a theoretical exam - we need a suitable animal (in our case, a dog) for the animal assisted program!

2. Agenda of the Therapy Animal Handling training Animal suitability assessment:

  • Basic obedience excercises with owner and stranger
  • Refuse food
  • Reactions to touching, touching sensitive body areas (by owner and stranger)
  • Sensitivity to noises
  • Etc.

Mador behaved fantastically during the previous assessment, he was calm, gentle, a very obedient dog.

And then came the biggest challenge for the dog-handler team: the exam!

3. Agenda of the Therapy Animal Handling training practical exam:

  • a. Obedience excercises: apart from general basic excercises (sit, lay down, stand, heel, stay, left-right), we have to handle the dog on the left but also on the right side, handling by others (a child), greeting (i.e. bark, paws), apport, interaction with people initialized by the dog, etc.
  • b. Therapy situation: greeting, handling participants in wheelchair, reactions to unexpected loud noises, refuse food, play, give back toys, ignore toys that had not been given to the dog, obedience to participants, put/remove harness, caress dog, other special excercises, games.
  • c. Dog cosmetician assessment: general health check, definition of expected appearance (both dog and handler) at the therapy scene.
  • d. Handler psychologic assessment: answering questions to be evaluated later by psychologist, about handler's motivation, objectives, preferences.

I think it is important to state how key people the helpers are during the exam. To simulate a real therapy situation, we need someone in a wheelchair (real), children/participants with different level of special needs, people who are afraid of / too open toward dogs, too loud, too introverted, someone who open the door to disturb etc. The helpers previously had a separate education, to ensure the interaction will happen as planned. Special thanks for the Helpers as well!

We passed the practical exam as well. (I note: at Obedience exam, we made the most points with Mador, ahead of all candidates (german shepherd, shetland sheperd, golden retriever, tibet terrier, airedale terrier, maltese!).

I am proud to announce that Mador now is a "certified therapy dog" at the Mancsos Foundation, registration number is 008/2008. At first the validity was 30.09.2009. (Note: in Hungary currently there is no legal regulation for therapy dog registration, examination, activities etc.) According to the Foundation rules (and to provide constant excellent work, at a high professional level), the validity of the exam is 1 year, this is why on 30.08.2009 we repeted the exam. Now we are waiting for the evaluation of the documentation (papers, videos), and waiting for the results.

I feel specially honored, that - as of acknowledging my work so far - I was requested to be head of therapy exam committee and conduct therapy and suitability exams both at Helpers with Paws Foundation (www.mancsosok.hu) and at Hungarian Therapy and Helping Dogs Society Association (www.matesze.hu)


For more photos: see Mador references

Mador useability and presentation from animal assisted activities point of view

Right dog to the right problem! It is important to be aware: not all dogs are suitable for all therapy objectives, this is why we need to know the objective of the program and the dog, to realize an effective and successful program.

During the session, the behavior of the dog and the child can basically be active or passive (none of them is "good" or "bad", just we need to find the match of dog-child with the specific type and therapy objective):

Passive dog:
The dog is the passive partner of the interaction, or is not participating in it at all (i.e. laying down and children are talking about the body scheme, or is relaxing, or we perform picture/paper excercises), etc.
Active dog:
The dog performs the same actions as the child (i.e. sit, lay down), dog is participating in role plays (i.e. fire (sit) - water (lay down) - aeroplane (stand), is playing in circle games, etc.
Passive child:
We expect the child to be passive (i.e. hyperactive child must sit while the dog is "producing", or the dog is eating the treats from the child, etc.)
The child is observing: telling what the dog is doing, how the dog looks like.
Developing basal sensors: child is closing eyes and waits where the dog will touch.
Relaxation: child lays down on the dog, breathing with it.
Active child:
Child is participating in interactions, is in direct contact with the dog or is in contact with it without touching (watching the dog, reacting upon dog's position).

Mador Virgonc
For more photos: see Mador references

Characteristics and Mador characteristics for animal assisted programs:

Mador characteristic
Looks Looks of the dog, phenotype: size, length of hair, colors, etc. (When is the dog changing hair, needs trimming (i.e. terriers), when changing hair, organise more passive tasks, and the room will need cleaning after session) Mador is a giant/large dog ("XXL"). His hair is long and soft, he looks like a bear. His dominant colors are red and black, at belly and legs is creamy (to teach more colors: pink (tongue) and white (teeth)). He is constantly changing some hair, especially in spring and autumn. (Vacuum cleaning is needed after the session, cleaning ladies need to be informed).
Excercises Obedience excercises known by the dog, in what form (oral/gesture)

Mador works for voice and gestures alike, from near and far (I added his signs when applicable):
- sit (fist clanched),
- down (hand with open palm, closed fingers, pointing down the floor),
- stand (hand to the side),
- stay (palm outside, open fingers (five)),
- to me (both arms showing sideways (T)),
- heel,
- wait,
- bring,
- give it to me: please.

Level of activity Is the dog slow and unhurried, or is quick and active. The more disabled the child is, the slower dog is needed. This characteristic defines if the dog is good for active/passive excercises/children. For a post-accident rehabilitation, for example, a quick active dog is suitable (moving arms - throw ball many times). Mador is a slow, calm dog (without treats). He is willing and happy to lay on his side for a long time until the child is relaxing on him. He is good for seriously handicapped, autist, etc. children as well. He can be made active with treats but then he tends to (unwillingly) push everybody around him (sometimes not even touching but by the turbulence he causes), this is why I prefer not to/rarely use treats during the sessions.
Character Is the dog "hard" or "soft", how dominant, how easy to handle. Mador is "soft", he is not dominant at all, he is easy to instruc, he wants to please. He accepts long hugs, laying on him, etc.
Licking The child and the dog are at about the same height. A child either loves, or hates if the dog is licking (not in between, really). Some children dislike when the dog touches them, they say the dog "bit" them. Licking of the belly especially calm down the autist children. Licking dogs are not dominant. Needs to discuss this beforehand (i.e. eyes/lips cannot be licked, but hand, ears yes). It is advised to bring a small towel. Mador is not licking, except if the child explicitely asks for it (pushing the face/neck/ear, laughs, touches, encourages him). I personally don't like it so do not tolerate for a long time.
Distance How much the dog is seeking physical contact (not all children like when the dog approaches, sniffs, the handler must be able to stop the dog). Mador has a fine sense to define whom to approach and when to wait until the child goes to him. He is interested but not too pushy. In general he likes direct contact.
Pain tolerance How much the dog tolerates the pain caused (in most cases unwillingly) by the children, and how it reacts to it (i.e. bites or just walks away). Well socialized dog knows that the pain was caused by accident, but we also know children who intentionally cause pain to dogs. Excercises must be introduced gradually so that both the child and the dog can be relaxed. Mador pain tolerance is very high, he can't even notices pain, if it's too strong, he would maximum look back (surprised). He allows to touch and pet any part of his body. He is never agressive, in problematic situations he would seek for help from me, or he would walk away from the situation.
Body parts to be touched Which parts of the body are allowed to touch by the dog, are there any parts to be avoided Mador lets touch any part of his body, even the tongue.
Fears What is the dog afraid of (there must be something, maybe a balloon). There might be many tools with the children that the dog might be afraid of, these need to be shown to the dog before the session (i.e. crutch, flute). Mador has not shown any fear of anything (so far). Traditionally, leonbergers are not sensitive to noises, the breed standard explicitely requires this characteristic. I have tried: 5-8 feet away from a jackhammer, I showed hand signals to sit and down, and he did them all, and at fireworks, he wants to playfully catch them, he is neutral to thunder.
Reaction to noises What are the noises the dog reacts to negatively (i.e. child scream). In some cases shepherd dogs start to herd on the noise of the clappers). In a pub/disco, if the dog seeks for help in case of lights and noises, the handler needs to pay attention, understand and react accordingly. Mador tolerates well the sudden loud noises. There is no reaction on child screem, cry, shouting, maximum he tries to solace them or asks for help from me how to react (expectation: stay neutral).
Strengths Excercises that the dog loves, and can be used any time (sometime we need to improvise and have a spontaneous excercise). Mador is always good at basic obedience, the "Imitate the dog" game is always useable (when the children must do what the dog does on hand signals: sit, stand and lay down).
Weaknesses Situations best to avoid (i.e. when on a sudden loud noise, the dog would jump in the lap).

Mador does not like to apport object too many times, after throwing the ball 4-5 times, we need to start another game.

Number of children How many children the dog can handle. I.e. 4-5 children, with an active dog we can have 8. Ideal number is 5-6 children, if there are more, we will need more dogs or helpers, to involve everybody. Mador adapts extremely well to any situations, only the institution/specialist/teacher defines the number of children (i.e. Portuguese tourist group of around 30 people surrounded him, or 10-12 children pet him in the same time when he is laying down, or after a class, the whole class runs to pet him - he tolerates these situations calmly, wagging his tail.)
Time For how long can we work with the dog (in books we can find 20-40 minutes per session, in practice this depends on the children, but maximum 1.5 hours). Mador was mostly asked for 30-40 minutes sessions, but we have also had less intensive 2 hours session (with children with multiple disabilities, Mador was mostly laying down). As soon as he shows me signs that he is exhausted, I stop the session.
Specialities What unique excercises can we do with the dog Mador's speciality is the "pincers game", in different alterations (i.e. to teach the body scheme, the children have to put clothes-pins on different body parts, or to learn the colors, they have to select the pins, or to distinguish big and little, they need to select the right pins, or another game is the seek-and-hide, they need to find the hidden pins in his hair, etc.)


Mador Virgonc
For more photos: see Mador references



Related to dog therapy, I first participated at excellent presentations at the Course or conferences, but on 30th August, 2011 the time came when I had the chance to present at the Budapest Center of Congress. Anett Illés has received an invitation to present at the 2nd World Congress of Art Therapies where she invited me with Mador as co-presenter and interpreter. We chose the following title for our presentation: Enhance Artistic Skills at Canine Assisted Activities. Anett has built up an excellent presentation for only 20 minutes:

Content of our presenation Enhance Artistic Skills at Canine Assisted Activities:

  • Main Benefits of Canine Interactions
  • Types of Animal Assisted Interactions (AAA, AAT, AAE)
  • Aspects of Canine Assisted Art Therapy (presentation of the process by selecting 1-1 specific area)
    • Elements of Artistic Education (i.e. enhance music skills)
    • Age (i.e. kindergarten children)
    • Animal Assisted Interaction (i.e. animal assisted therapy)
  • Main Development Areas (fine and large movements, thinking, sensing, communication, language, talking)
  • Deep Analysis and Alignment of the selected area, age group and interaction type
  • Sample Activities for Various Development Areas
  • Situation in Hungary

The presentation can be downloaded here (.pdf, 1,5 MB)

Interactive activities involving the audience after the presentation:

  • Based on the dog's position, women (sit) and men (lay down) make a noise (high-low voices)
  • A volunteer is "given a present" by the dog: a piece of paper is attached to the dog with a picture on it, and the person is associating to the children song (to our greatest pleasure, an enthousiastic lady sang beautifully and clearly the song "Ég a gyertya, ég" (The candle is lit))
  • Guess a song game with a distributed Kodály-method solmisation scheme based on notes represented by different dog positions (if you happen to know which song is this, send it to me for a little surprise). I have never ever seen such an innovative dog-music excercise!

Kutyakotta rejtvény
Dog-music guess game by Kodály-method solmisation scheme

I believe I can state with no exaggeration that Mador was the star of the conference. Many people petted him, were asking questions and were eager to participate at our presentation, others came to us afterwards. I had a wonderful time! We also received a confirmation from the congress organiser Dr. Erzsébet Hász to come back and present at the 3rd world congress next year. I would like to thank Anett, here again, for having thought of me and invited me!

Konferencia.Konf.Dr. Hász Erzsébet
For more photos: see Mador references

We decided that from now on, we are ready to provide interactive presentations about dog therapy in the following languages: Hungarian HU, English EN, German DE, French FR or Spanish ES .


Then in February 2012, I was very proud for the invitation by Ideo Group to hold a 2+ hour presentation with Mador for their Volksbank clients in the area of Stress Management With Dog.

Content of my presenation Stress Management With Dog:

  • Stress
  • Dog
  • Stress Management with Dogs

I was very proud and happy that I was invited to present. I made an extensive research and collaborated with Helpers With Paws Foundation (www.mancsosok.hu) The initial stress level of the group was an average of 3,89 (scale: 1-7) which increased by 50% (to 5,86) at the end of the 3-hour presentation. At the end I asked the participants if their expectations have been met: 66% said they were met, and the opinion of the remaining 33% was that they have received more than expected. Mador also behaved very well so it was a successful event. I would like to thank again the organiser Hajnalka Holecz from Ideo Group for the invitation.

Stress Management With Dog flyer
Stress Management With Dog flyer

Download presentation here (in Hungarian language, .pdf, 4.9 MB)



Mador references

Virgonc Napközi "Spry Daycare Institution", Budapest H-1021 Budapest, Hûvösvölgyi út 89. (+36-1) 274-0304 or (+36-70) 360-1665
- severly and multiple disabled children
- "opening" a 15-year-old autist girl - she gave no reactions to anybody before, but after 3 months of activities with Mador, she approached the dog herself, specialists now can start working with her.
- 4 years old girl with Down-syndrome: changing her attitude of "dog-no" into "dog-yes", she is more open and interested, motivated
- every child: increase obedience to rules,
- listen to each other, accept others,
- excercises with whole body movement,
- fine motoric excercises,
- etc.

For the first time, we went there to substitute another dog-handler team. The Directrice saw Mador and went white and afraid, then when she saw how obedient and reliable Mador was on hand signals and whispered orders, she finally petted him (!) and explicitely asked for us to come in the future.

Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc

Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc

Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc.Mador Virgonc

Szellõ utcai Óvoda, Általános Iskola, Egységes Gyógypedagógiai Módszertani Intézmény (EGYMI)
"Szellõ street Kindergarten and Primary School, Unified Medical Pedagogy Practices Institution" www.szelloegymi.hu
participation at kindergarten and school work, daytime camp and children's day:
- kindergarten: development of severly and multiple disabled children by developing full body and fine movements,
- school (first 4 years) in several classes: development of attention concentration,
- art therapy (by contouring the dog, then coloring the paper),
- developing basal sensors,
- teaching the body scheme, find similarities and differences between human and canine body, child learns own body,
- increase obedience to rules,
- calm down hyperactive children for even 7 minutes (relaxation on the dog),
- special development of autist children,
- etc.

While into some schools and kindergartens, the dogs are not allowed inside, it was especially joyful for me that we were so much welcome and had so positive feedback. The parents chose this school for their children because there is dog therapy. I have to note, at first we had sceptic teachers but after the first session, now they are in our fan club as well, thank you for this!




Madárka Óvoda, "Bird Kindergarten" www.madarka.hu
- develop healthy and disabled children (Down-syndrome) with movements (go under the dog, avoid obstacles with long flexi leash, etc.),
- improve memory (repeat excercises performed by the dog),
- body scheme,
- develop fine motoric movements,
- obedience to rules,
- etc.

Mador óvoda.Mador óvoda.Mador óvoda.Mador óvoda.Mador óvoda

Participation at several research experiments of the ELTE Eötvös University Department of Etology
(click flag for English)
- left-right-footed dog
(in Mador's case we can't tell significantly)
- looking for help to open cage with food (owner - known person - stranger, Mador is owner-dependent for sure)
- whom to run (owner - known person - stranger, just like above, Mador is owner-maniac)
- behavior of dog left alone (Mador was completely calm, waiting for me to return, we were watching him on video and through the window)
- dominance excercise (can the dog be pushed on the side/back, Mador is not dominant at all)
- find food hidden behind a fence (Mador wanted to forcedly destroy the fence, he has not even tried to go around)
- find hidden food/ball (Mador has found it with a high success rate, he can well concentrate, he uses both his nose and his eyes)
- etc.

It was so good to talk to the Department colleagues, to have an insight into their research, to know the circumstances of the experiments, to watch the dog's reactions on video, etc. It was a lifetime experience to partipate at this, and maybe we also contributed to the development of the etology in Hungary and to the successes. And my daughter Rebeka was inside me by the end of the experiments....

Mador etológia.Mador etológia.Mador etológia.Mador etológia

Újhegy Mothers Club www.ujhegyiek.hu
- provide positive first-time experience with dog to healthy babies and toddlers
- dog has a passive role, he lays down while the children get to know him

This was our first "own" invitation, and I am very proud of it. As always, I washed Mador beforehand so that he "smells good" since babies' and toddlers' nasal senses play a very important role at this time of development. To my greatest pleasure, the babies approached the dog openly, without fear, and Mador was very popular for even the parents as well.


Spontaneous actions and positive experiences day by day:
- at the subway Mador spontaneously sat in front of a lady - it turned out she'd lost her dog a couple of days ago, and she wanted to pet Mador
- at the subway, a lady next to me asked me to touch Mador barefoot - we let her do it
- at the West Railway subway station, a lady told me she was nervous and wanted to pet Mador to calm down, then she thanked us and went on her way
- a blind lady sat next to me on the bus, and started to nervously tell me her story at the bank. She caressed Mador and calmed completely down for about ten minutes
- when walking at the Deep-lake we talked to a lady in wheelchair, she wanted to pet Mador, and of course he was not afraid of the wheelchair, he let himself pet, and even approached closed to allow the lady to touch him
- children run after him and pet on the street
- children pet him through the fence (Mador is guarding the house selectively, there are others to whom he barks from far)
- mums with toddlers recommend him to each other to let their children gain their first positive dog experiences with Mador
- we only can go with about 1 meter/hour speed wherever we go, people stop asking us about the breed, if they can touch the dog, why is he wearing red-cross harness, how old is he, how much he eats, etc. etc.
- etc.




We can find a wild variety of special books, especially in English/German. With no intention to list them all, here are the websites and books that I like the most:

Therapy animals tematic link collection (http://terapiasallatok.lap.hu) this is why I don't list one by one the Hungarian and foreign therapy organisations and foundations

Mancsos Segítõtársaink Terápiás Állatok és Oktatási Alapítvány / Paw Helpers Therapy Animals and Education Foundation (www.mancsosok.hu) course materials, specialized conferences, everyday support

Delta Society Organization - American organisation with great experience and materials (www.deltasociety.org)

Illés Anett dog therapy pages (www.kutyasterapia.hu) also see Publications!

If you know more really good links/books, please share with me. Thank you.



We will find a solution!

Should you have inquiries for your/your friend's child(ren) or institution, please do not hesitate to contact me. We will find a solution! Thank you.


© Mador.hu