I am a Veteran - How do I apply for an assistance dog?
You should request a “Register of Interest” form to complete - we ask for some basic information and is NOT a full application at this stage.
Once eligibility is confirmed, we then invite you to visit us and meet some of the team to learn more about the programme, set realistic expectations, and discuss how an Assistance Dog can help with your specific disabilities.
You are then provided a FULL APPLICATION to complete and return.
VETERANS WITH DOGS reserves the right at any point in the process and at our sole discretion to decline an application.
How much does an assistance dog from VWD cost?
Nothing. We make no charge to a recipient for the placement of any dog, or for any training services that we provide. However, there are ongoing costs for normal daily care that must be considered as part of owning any dog. Responsibility for the costs of keeping the dog transfer to the Veteran once placed.
How long is the application process?
Once a Register of Interest is submitted the process can be as short as 6 months or as long as 24 months. If a Veteran is accepted onto the programme he/she then goes into the pool of all clients waiting to be paired with a Dog.
For all clients on the waiting list, the search to find an appropriate dog begins right away. However, this all depends on the individual needs of the client, and the individual qualities of the dogs in training.
Can any dog become an assistance dog?
No. We carefully source and select potential assistance dogs from specific breeders based on proven background, temperament, structural soundness, healthy genetics and breeding. Even this process does not necessarily mean that every dog will make the grade.
What types of dogs does VWD use?
We use breeds with an established history and proven background of assistance dog work in the UK.
The most popular, and generally most successful breeds, come from the Retriever group. Those breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two.
We also use Spaniel breeds and 'Doodles' in the programme.
Can I register my dog as an assistance dog?
No. We do not provide any kind of registration process for dogs.
Veterans must fully complete the PALS programme to become qualified as a partnership with a dog.
Can I train with my own dog to qualify as an assistance dog?
There are standards and temperament criteria that your dog has to meet to qualify as a working dog, in the same way that Guide and Hearing Dogs do, as they will be able to access public places. There is unfortunately no guarantee that your dog would be suitable, and he/she would need to pass an initial assessment first.
To be considered for this your dog must be under the age of 3 years before training starts, and you MUST have been the only owner of the dog.
We would advise that you attend Association of Pet Dog trainers (APDT) training classes if possible, and work through their certification.
Please be aware that we do not guarantee that a dog will be accepted onto the programme as there are many considerations to be taken into account. A dog for emotional support is also not reason enough to be accepted.
What exactly do VWD's assistance dogs do?
Our assistance dogs are trained for certain baseline behaviours such as initiating daily routine, medication reminders, grounding and other activities personal to the Veteran.
They are trained to respond to anxieties displayed by the Veteran in everyday life, and potentially challenging environments (including hyper-vigilance). They also recognise, indicate and interrupt signs of anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares by exhibiting escalation behaviours.
The building up of these behaviours allow the Veteran to break the cycle and regain emotional control by employing cognitive behavioural skills, engaging risk reduction behaviours and so reduce the debilitation of symptomology associated with PTSD.(Our dogs DO NOT train for any type of security tasks or defensive behaviours, and are not allowed to elicit any type of aggressive behaviour.)
How does the dog help with flashbacks and panic attacks?
A veteran will display certain behaviours just before and during a flashback. The dog is trained to recognise the early signals of these behaviours, interrupt them and redirect the veteran.
How long does it take to train an assistance dog?
The length of time training takes is determined by the Veteran’s needs and the tasks the dog is required to do.
Training can take anything between 12 to 24 months depending on maturity of the dog and the Veteran's lifestyle, family and home environment, their range of physical, psychological and cognitive abilities and their individual personalities.
I already own a dog but would like to apply for one from VWD, is this possible?
Unfortunately not. We insist that an assistance dog is the one and only dog in the household.
There are too many complications when other dogs are in the same home. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home interfere with the bonding and training process of the Assistance Dog partnership.
Why are some breeds and types of dogs not suitable for the PALS programme?
Experience of training and placing assistance dogs has found that some traits, temperaments, characteristics and instinctual drives make some breeds unsuitable for working as assistance dogs for mental health.
Some of these include: German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, Malamutes, Bull-breeds and Terriers. (Not all breeds are listed here and we fully accept that ALL breeds can provide perfectly good companionship for their owners).
We work extremely hard to make our partnerships a success, and this means accepting the reality of those breeds with a proven track record of assistance dog work. It is not our intention to offend anybody by declining peoples' breed of choice as their own dog.
What are the responsibilities of the client who receives a PALS Assistance Dog?
Veterans must be willing and able to follow through with the in-home and public training process.
Veterans must be committed to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the lifetime of the partnership, and to providing for the well-being of the dog (veterinary care, proper grooming, exercise, etc.).
VWD provides ongoing support for the lifetime of our partnerships.
My dog does what I need it to already, can I register for assistance dog status?
Unfortunately not. There is no shortcut to qualification.
Whilst we recognised that any dog can be of assistance, all dogs must go through a rigorous selection assessment and the PALS training programme before they can become a registered assistance dog. This process can take up to 2 years.
Can I raise my own puppy to become an assistance dog?
Speak to us first please.
Of course anyone can choose to raise their own puppy, but there are no guarantees that this would be successful. It is a huge undertaking to raise puppies specifically to work as assistance dogs. There are critical periods of puppy development that need to be addressed, as with any dog, to ensure they are brought up appropriately and ready for life as a working dog.
Preparing a dog for life as an assistance dog is one of the most important elements of any training programme. By effectively socialising and habituating dogs to every‐day situations in a positive and effective way, during and beyond the socialisation and critical period, we can enhance their development into well socialised, confident dogs which is key for a successful assistance dog relationship.
You must think very carefully and decide if you are able to do this for a puppy with future assistance dog training in mind.
If this is something that you are considering then you need to make an application to be accepted onto the programme before sourcing a dog. We can then give you advice and some education beforehand to try an increase your chances of success.
We are not able to provide training for owners of puppies and we do not assess dogs until at least 8 months old.