Dogs for Good has received a significant boost for the Dementia Dog Project that the charity runs in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, thanks to a National Lottery grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The grant, of £314,022, will allow the charity partners to take their learnings beyond an individual assistance dog approach, to support people with dementia in community settings.

Photo credit: Clark James Digital

The funding will enable Dogs for Good and Alzheimer Scotland to pilot a series of ‘Dog Day’ community events and goal-oriented therapy intervention pilots in Scotland and trial areas in England, using trained dogs.  The therapy, known as Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) is a well-established practice in many parts of the world, but is less advanced in the UK.  Specialist handlers and trained activity and therapy dogs work alongside support workers and health care professionals to help people facing daily challenges, in this case for people living with dementia.

More than 500 people living with dementia will directly benefit from these initial trials, with evaluation measuring wellbeing and economic benefits for both the people with dementia and their carers.

Community Dogs, supplied by Dogs for Good, will undergo their advance training at HMP Castle Huntly, an open prison near Dundee and the operational base for the Dementia Dog Project.  Here, working with the Scottish Prison Service and Paws for Progress CIC, this innovative partnership enables men in custody to gain valuable employability skills and improve their overall well-being, while also helping to provide highly trained dogs to help people living with dementia.

In the community, pools of volunteer handlers and their pet dogs will also be recruited and trained in trial areas, to help establish new training standards and test the viability of delivery mechanisms on a larger future scale.

Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, said: “This pilot project from Dogs for Good is an excellent example of how National Lottery funding can help groups test out new ideas or approaches. There is evidence which shows that dementia assistance dogs can help people with dementia and their families live more fulfilling, independent lives. So we are delighted to be able to fund some of this work in Scotland and I look forward to hearing more about the development of this pilot over the coming months as it plans to expand into England too.”

Peter Gorbing, chief executive of Dogs for Good said: “This grant will allow the Dementia Dog Project team to test and pioneer new approaches to reduce social isolation and bring joy and meaning into the lives of people with dementia. Through our work training dementia assistance dogs we have seen the positive contribution that dogs can make to people’s lives.  This boost in funding for the Dementia Dog project will help us to reach even more people living with dementia in the community.”

Find out more about the Dementia Dog Project.