The PALS Puppy Programme is specifically designed to raise and prepare our 'Wonderdogs' of the future to become assistance dogs for our Veterans.
We carefully select puppies from initial breeding, for health, for temperament and their potential as future assistance dogs. At 7 – 8 weeks of age a puppy is placed with a volunteer puppy socialiser, who takes him into their home and looks after him for 12 – 18 months.
Our socialisers are tasked with caring for the puppy’s well being including carrying out routine health checks, ensuring he is the correct weight, and grooming. They attend regular puppy training to develop the puppy in a controlled environment, which is different to their home setting.
For the first 6 months they focus on providing routine and consistency, which is incredibly important to help the puppy develop in areas such as house training, learning to be left alone, and basic behaviours. They spend time socialising the pup around lots of people and animals, and visit as many different places as possible.
From 6 months old the focus shifts to ‘real-life’ situations and environments. Ensuring he comes back when called whilst walking in the park, and helping him learn to settle in busy places such as cafes.
Once the puppies have left the litter, their needs change and they begin to learn to how to adapt in our world. Each puppy is unique and each set of experiences are unique too. Here the impact of the puppy socialisers' work throughout this phase is invaluable.
Meeting and greeting people in a friendly, calm and controlled way is all part of the training that our puppies need to learn. When out in public with a VWD puppy, our socialisers get approached by many people. Fortunately, most people know to ask before petting or approaching the puppy. Once permission has been given, the puppy needs to be well behaved and under control.
Assistance dogs need to be able to travel and adjust to new surroundings and people. Taking a puppy to various locations and seeing different people and animals are part of the socialisation process that is so important for a future assistance dog. Our puppy socialisers are responsible for these early interactions and experiences, and whilst fun, is an extremely important part of the whole learning our puppies need to go through.