Pawz and Play is a Practice that incorporates animal-assisted therapy into therapeutic work with children and adolescents. Private services are available where medical aid rates apply. Pawz and Play has a dream to offer services to underprivileged schools where children are living in communities where psychosocial and emotional support is so needed, but due to a lack of resources is not available. Pawz and Play is hoping to partner with organisations willing to sponsor and fund these services.



My name is Claire Voges and my professional life has been an eclectic combination of many things. Post Matric I obtained qualifications in Personal and Group Fitness Training and Massage Therapy including Aromatherapy. I worked in the Health and Fitness Industry for about 7 years until I began to realise that people were not achieving their goals due to their own self-limiting beliefs. This led to my decision to study Psychology and Social Work. I graduated from The University of Cape Town in 2002 with a BSoc Sc Honours in Social Work. I have also completed courses in Gestalt Play Therapy, Advanced Sandtray and Clay Therapy and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). I have worked in many settings – Rape Crisis, a High School, in Private Practice for about 8 years and in Higher Education for about 12 years. I have lectured at both SACAP and guest lectured at UCT and been very involved in supervision of students doing the practical component of their studies. I am a mom to two teens – Joshua who is 15 and Paige who is 13. It is a privilege to watch them grow and mature. I am passionate about animals and children, hence my interest in Animal-Assisted Therapy and in particular – Canine-Assisted Play Therapy.


“AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is delivered and/or directed by a health/human service provider working within the scope of his/her profession. AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning” (Delta Society, 2004, p.11).

I have always had an affinity for animals but came across AAT quite by accident. I was in private practice working from home when I bought a Pomeranian puppy for my daughter for her 8th birthday. I was at the time working with a young boy and struggling to make any real progress. At one session he accidentally “met” Cody the puppy and from that session onwards everything changed! We ended up building a beautiful therapeutic relationship and doing some amazing work together (with Cody attending the sessions of course)! This is what led to me studying and pursuing Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT).


My one co-worker is a Pomeranian (Toy Pom) called Shiloh. She was born in October 2015 and was especially bred and selected by Erica Van Der Linde of Browdeen Kennels (www.browdeentoypomeranians.com) in Vereeniging for the job! She underwent puppy temperament testing and was well socialised by the time she arrived in Cape Town when she was 8 weeks old. Subsequently Shiloh and I have done puppy class followed by obedience training and in November 2016 she passed the Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC) assessed by Liz Chamberlain from KUSA (Kennel Union of South Africa). Shiloh and I continue to train twice a week with Yvonne Zwiegelaar from Dog Dynamics in Cape Town (www.dogdynamics.co.za).


My second co-worker is Jesse, a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd. He was born in June 2013 at Zakur Aussies and I am very blessed to be his second mommy and his name actually means “gift”. His first mommy has emigrated to the USA. I fell in love with the Aussie as a breed after meeting my dog trainer Yvonne’s Aussie Jordan and desperately wanted a Blue Merle. Jesse is the perfect age to start working as a therapy dog and is going to be my AAT reading programme star. He is an affectionate and lovable big boy and is going to give and receive many hugs from the kids. He is very clever and quick to learn and has fitted into our pack with ease. He has even fallen in love with Zen our Siamese kitten and the two of them spend many hours playing together!


  • Individual counselling and play therapy sessions for children and adolescents
  • Canine-Assisted Play Therapy sessions for children
  • Canine-Assisted Counselling sessions for adolescents
  • AAT Reading Programme for schools or individuals with low reading scores
  • AAA visits to Children’s Homes, Hospitals (with the permission of the Institution)



In AAT animals have been used for rapport-building, decreasing anxiety, acting as a social lubricant between therapist and client, providing a sense of emotional safety, fostering attachment and developing a sense of mastery, efficacy and competency, thus boosting self-esteem (Van Fleet, 2008, p.10).

Including a dog in the therapeutic relationship allows me to establish a connection with the child or adolescent in a non-threatening way. The benefits of animals as pets or companions is well researched and petting an animal is proven to lower blood pressure, increase dopamine and oxytocin and decrease cortisol levels (Chandler, 2012). Animals are good for your health! AAT is particularly effective when it comes to clients that are reluctant and resistant as well as clients who have attachment issues or have been exposed to trauma.

I am able to incorporate a therapy dog into the intervention in a variety of ways. What is important to note is that sessions are not just about “playing with the dog”. Each intervention has a clear therapeutic goal and many other activities, tools and techniques are used in conjunction with AAT to achieve therapeutic progress.

Issues that I work with:

  • Self-Esteem
  • Bullying
  • Parental separation and divorce
  • Trauma
  • Grief and Loss
  • Social Issues
  • Aggression and Anger Management
  • School refusal (with permission from the school concerned)


South Africa is far behind the international trends when it comes to AAT.

  • Canine assisted play therapy – this is what will incorporated into my work
  • Autism assistance dogs
  • Psychiatric Service Dogs – these dogs are trained for a number of different mental health issues such as PTSD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, Depression, etc.For more information follow the link www.assistancedogs4all.org.
  • Hospice, Children’s Homes, Hospital visitation
  • AAT Reading Programmes – children who are struggling to learn to read are paired with a therapy dog to whom they read aloud. Research is proving that this is a promising way of fostering a love for reading and increasing reading scores.
  • Equine Assisted Therapy (EAP)
  • AAT obesity and weight control programmes
  • Prison/Correctional Services Programmes – teaching empathy and giving prisoners a sense of purpose – they train shelter dogs to make them more adoptable or train service dogs for returning war veterans suffering from PTSD.
  • Epilepsy and Diabetes Assistance Dogs