Support Dogs has a passion and commitment to ensure that people affected by autism, epilepsy and physical disability can enjoy a greater level of independence. They do this by providing training, live in safety and supporting registered assistance dogs.
Support Dogs is a registered charity and does not charge for its services and relies entirely on voluntary donations. They do not receive any Government funding for the work they do and this is just one of the many reasons K9 Nation chose to support the charity with this year’s K9 Clean up event.
“The care and dedication of those that work to prepare the dogs for their lives ahead is second to none”
1 in 4 of the life-transforming support dogs they train are rescue animals or unwanted pets. They describe themselves as the ‘charity that gives an unwanted dog a second chance.’ The fact that they are changing not just a person’s life but also a dog’s life is incredible and the team at Support Dogs works with many different established rescue charities to find more suitable canines that can be trained.
Assistance dogs need to have certain characteristics for each training program depending on the type of support they are going to specialise in but they all need to be confident and adaptable, dog-friendly, people-oriented, with no major fears or phobias.
It takes an average of 2 years to train a support dog. From getting them socialized all the way to completing their final stage of training focused on meeting the specific individual needs of their client.
Dog welfare is at the top of the agenda throughout the charity and trainee dogs never spend a night in kennels but instead live with local foster carers.
The typical cost of putting a dog through the average 2-year training program is in the region of £24,000. Dogs who come to the charity as puppies will live with a foster carer for the first 14 months of their lives learning basic training and socialization skills. After that, they then start ‘big school’ and spend their weekdays learning the specialist skills they need to become an assistance dog whilst living with a foster carer in the evenings and weekends before being assigned to a client.
This period of training is crucial as it’s when the dogs can start to display their natural affinity for some behaviours over others such as anticipating seizures. If it’s the job of the trainers to be in tune with the dogs’ natural skillsets and then match them with the right client.
The care and dedication of those that work to prepare the dogs for their lives ahead is second to none and the life-changing impact to those who are lucky enough to receive a Support Dog can not be underestimated.
As with many charities, the pandemic made life incredibly challenging for the team at Support Dogs both logistically and when it comes to fundraising initiatives, which they rely on so heavily.
As we all know the pandemic is leading to an increase in dogs ending up at rescue centres and so the need for the work that Support Dogs does is greater than ever. We hope that the K9 Nation community will do all they can to support this fantastic charity and help change the lives of both humans and dogs alike.