Assistance dogs are dogs which have been specifically trained to aid or assist an individual suffering with a particular disability.
The PALS (Partner Animal Life Skills) Programme to train and provide assistance dogs for mental health is just one adjunct to treatment that is having a profound effect on helping Veterans to increase their quality of life and regain independence.
An assistance dog for mental health enables a Veteran to lead a more independent life, and is allowed by law to accompany their partner into public places such as shops, restaurants and also to travel on public transport, as defined by the DDA.
Our dogs are trained for certain tasks such as initiating daily routine, from waking to medication reminders 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 recognise, indicate and interrupt signs of anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares.
These behaviours allow the Veteran to break these cycles and regain emotional control by employing cognitive behavioural skills, engaging risk reduction behaviours and so reduce the debilitation of symptomology associated with PTSD.
We understand every mental health disability is different and unique to each individual, which is why our dogs are matched and then custom-trained for a Veteran's specific needs.
Once a dog has reached an appropriate standard, VWD brings the Veteran and dog together in a residential setting to begin the matching and transfer. This allows the Veteran to train under supervision with our team and learn how to work and train with their dog .
Further training then continues at home with one of our trainers, building on more advanced work and tasks until certified as an Assistance Dog Partnership.
VWD then provides continuing aftercare and support for the lifetime of the partnership.
The P.A.L.S. (Partner Animal Life Skills) Programme