Tell us about your role as a community dog handler
Using the techniques of Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) I work alongside a specially-trained community dog to help adults and children to work towards individual goals.
I’ll work with a professional from the client support team to set goals and plan the intervention. This involves designing a programme of engaging activities with the dog so we meet the individual needs of each person.
Goals can be very varied and may include helping a client with:
- Social inclusion/interaction
- Self care
- Road safety
- Reducing anxiety
- Confidence to go out in the community
- Building a relationship
- Taking responsibility
- Reducing a fear of dogs
- Motivation to learn new skills or take part in a regular activity
- Health and exercise
Who do you and your community dog help?
I work with a variety of people with special needs such as autism, learning disabilities and mental health to overcome specific challenges and develop new skills.
Our clients are from our partnership organisations, for example Autism at Kingwood, StyleAcre, Hertfordshire County Council and Bracknell Forest Council.
What’s the best thing about your role?
There are many! Seeing how the dogs can make such a difference to people lives and enhance their quality of life or improve their independence. The joy on the clients faces when we arrive each week and the positive comments from the support teams.
I love the variety of the role as no two days are the same, and of course the privilege of working with such lovely dogs each day and experiencing how they enjoy their work.
When did you start working with dogs?
Dogs have been an important part of my life since an early age. As a teenager, I used to walk neighbours’ and friends’ dogs and helped out at a rescue centre for a while near my home in Somerset. I then started to train my own dogs, worked as a welfare assistant for the RSPCA and helped to run a dog club on the Isle of Man before eventually becoming a Partnership Instructor for Hearing Dogs, where I stayed for 12 years.
Why did you want to work for Dogs for Good?
Having worked for another assistance dog organisation, I know how a dog can make an amazing difference to someone’s life. I’ve had a long-standing interest in how the special relationship between dogs and humans could be developed to help people facing different types of medical and learning challenges.
When I saw that Dogs for Good was starting a new initiative for adults with autism, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
Meet the special community dogs that Sarah works with. You can also find out about Julia and her role as a Dementia Dog handler.