What does Dog A.I.D do?
Dog A.I.D. (Assistance in Disability) is a charity which helps physically disabled people to train their own pet dog to become their fully qualified Assistance Dog. The charity has a team of over 100 volunteer professional dog trainers all across the U.K. who work 121 with their client for 6 months – 2 years to train their dog through the Dog A.I.D. scheme.
The process starts with a potential client visiting the Dog A.I.D. website (www.dogaid.org.uk) and spotting that we have an available trainer in their area. There is then a bit of preliminary paperwork that must be completed. When all paperwork and assessments are completed satisfactorily training can begin.
The client is then coached to train their pet dog using modern, safe, reward-based methods of dog training. The training usually takes place at the client’s home and in their local environment; occasionally it may be appropriate for the client to attend classes held by their trainer. This year Dog A.I.D. have taken a lot of our training online with trainers and Head Office staff running training sessions and workshops online.
No matter how or where the training takes place, it is using the bond which already exists between the client and their dog, the trainer is able to leave them to practise what they’ve learned until the next appointment. This strengthens the bond and gives the client confidence and a real sense of achievement.
The success of the scheme relies on the commitment of the client to continue and practise on a daily basis. Daily training ensures that the dog is learning at its own pace whilst being a constant companion to the client.
Who does Dog A.I.D help?
Dog A.I.D. clients are over the age of 15 and have a physical disability that their dog can assist with. Our clients have a range of disabilities such as;
• Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – a genetic disorder which causes dislocations, sprains, and fractures on a regular occurrence.
• PoTS – Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome which causes the autonomic nervous system to not work properly. This condition causes people to suffer from being lightheaded and be prone to fainting.
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Cerebral Palsy
• Muscular dystrophy
And so much more! Our dogs are incredible and can be trained do to a whole host of different tasks from finding medication, picking up dropped items, collecting post to fetching help!
What does your specific role include?
My job at Dog A.I.D. is as a Training and Development Manager. At the moment I spend more time on a computer than I would do in a world without COVID where hopefully I would have more face to face time with our wonderful clients and dogs!
I am responsible for recruiting, training and supporting our team of incredible volunteer dog trainers throughout their journey with Dog A.I.D. I spend my day replying to emails, hosting Zoom calls for trainers and preparing training resources for our clients. One of my favourite jobs is arranging assessments for our clients. Although it can be a bit of a logistical nightmare, at the moment with all the various lockdown and social distancing rules, it is the most important job (no pressure!) I have to find a Dog A.I.D. assessor who is able to travel to meet the client at a suitable location to do their assessment.
Recently our first Dog A.I.D. dog (Beanie) passed his assessment with his owner, Rhiannon. They were the first pair to pass through as and reach Qualified Assistance Dog Status since Covid-19 stopped us working face to face in March. Since then we have had 4 more partnerships be confirmed and reach their qualified status which for everything that’s gone on in 2020 is amazing!
As well as that, I am implementing new initiatives to advance our current offerings to clients and trainers with some exciting new things planned for 2021 such as online webinars for our trainers to count towards their Continued Professional Development which many of them are required to do for their dog trainer accreditations.
What's your favourite thing about working at Dog A.I.D?
The favourite part of any trainer’s job is seeing the dogs succeed! This is even more true with assistance dog work. When you see our dogs “working” for their owners and doing jobs which help their owners to get greater independence and confidence it is the most rewarding and heartwarming experience. I’m currently supporting a client in Scotland via remote technology and when she contacted me the other week to say her dog had retrieved her medication for her, I did a little fist pump and dance at my desk!
We have been working on this for only 2 short sessions on Zoom and the dog is doing amazingly! My own Dog A.I.D. client Clive and his spaniel, Arthur, are also a delight to work with and I look forward to our training sessions each week, whether they are on Zoom or on in person. Seeing how they are both progressing on their journey is my biggest reward!
How can people get involved and support if they want to?
We are always in need of more trainers. We have 100s of enquiries a week from people who could use Dog A.I.D.’s help but without more professional trainers on board, we can’t help them all. Professional trainers can contact Dog A.I.D. on firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the website at www.dogaid.org.uk
Like many charities, 2020 has been hard for Dog A.I.D. financially so we are keen to hear from people who would like to help with our fundraising efforts. Please head to our website at www.dogaid.org.uk to find out more about how to donate