As part of International Assistance Dog Week, we will be profiling a different UK assistance dog charity each day. We will also be speaking to Support Dogs on The Yorkshire Vets Podcast this week, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled! Our first charity profile is on Dogs for Good.
Who are Dogs for Good?
Dogs for Good (formerly Dogs for the Disabled) was set up by Frances Hay in 1986 and became a registered charity in 1988. Frances developed the charity after benefitting from having her disability supported by her own pet dog. Their headquarters is in Banbury, Oxfordshire, and they now have additional centres in Bristol and Culcheth, Warrington. They receive no government funding, so their £3 million a year running costs are entirely provided by donations, fundraising and volunteers.
What do they do?
Dogs for Good provide three main different services to benefit people with autism or physical disabilities. These are:
The charity trains assistance dogs to support people with physical disabilities. Training allows these dogs to help with tasks that are wide ranging and significant. Tasks can be as fundamental as opening and closing doors, filling and emptying the washing machine, or picking up dropped items such as keys or mobile phones. As you can imagine, support in these areas can be vital in allowing disabled people to have a normal life. Assistance dogs for children also provide a welcome companionship that can help them to develop independence and confidence that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.
A more recent development in assistance dog training is the use of autism support dogs. These dogs can help in a number of ways, including the development of a routine, the interruption of repetitive behaviour, and the providing of emotional support in unfamiliar environments. They also allow an added level of safety to autistic children. Autism support dogs wear a special ‘bolt harness’, that tethers to their child. This means that if a child tries to ‘bolt’ if they become stressed or upset, the dog is able to anchor them to stop them from getting away or running into danger. The dog is also harnessed to the parent, who is then able to take over and calm their child.
Dogs for Good also train and provide community dogs. These dogs are useful in situations where multiple people are able to benefit from a single assistance dog. They are also useful on a one-to one basis for people who only require part-time assistance, or in cases in which full-time dog ownership is impractical.
In recent years, Special Educational Needs Schools have started using community dogs. These dogs have a professional handler working with them and take on a full-time role within the school. They can provide support individual students, become involved in classroom activities, and work with groups of children. Their work is helpful in developing the educational, social and emotional development of students.
Outside of education, community dogs are also used to benefit adults with autism and learning disabilities. They are useful in developing important life skills and allowing the people they work with to live full and active lives within their community. New and groundbreaking roles for community dogs are also in development all the time. These include dementia support and the support of elderly people. Trials are also underway to explore the use of assistance dogs to support children with brain injuries.
The charity also works with the families of autistic children to train pet dogs to help support their child. This allows for autistic children who may not need a fully fledged assistance dog, to benefit from the companionship and support a dog can provide. Dogs for Good runs regular workshops that provide advice on choosing and training a dog that will benefit the family.
How Can I help?
As previously stated, Dogs for Good receive no government funding. This means that they are always on the look out for volunteers, donors and fundraisers. If you would like to help, please click on one of the following links for further information.