How are the dogs trained?
Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) trains the dogs and they have a long history of working with assistance dogs.
The dogs enter the training program at 8 weeks of age. The puppy education program has a socialisation and training program designed to optimise the foundation behaviour and basic obedience skills of the dog in the home and public area. The starting steps of more advanced skills are also introduced.
On average, the dogs enter the advanced training program at 12-14 months of age. This involves staying at ADA’s National Training School for up to 6 months of training prior to matching and then placement.
The placement period involves training classes for clients over an initial 2-4 week period and then follow up training every month for three months prior to public access testing. Further visits occur if required. The average age a dog is placed is between 18 months and 2 years of age.
What are the expected benefits?
A broad range of important psychological and social benefits are expected.
The dogs can provide an anchor to the person in terms of routine, assistance, grounding and emotional well-being.
Other benefits include cognitive, emotional and physical support.
Some of the helpful things dogs can do include:
- Reminding a person to take their medications, eat or drink
- Recognising a specific movement a person would make when in distress and push an emergency button on the phone or bark loudly for help
- Prompting a person to read a note left by a carer
- Opening cupboards and drawers
- Turning the lights off after people have fallen asleep
What are dementia assistance dogs?
Dementia assistance dogs are Labradors or Golden Retrievers that have been chosen for their calm nature and intelligence.
They are working members of the family. They are much more than just household pets.
As puppies they receive two years of training on general obedience and performing a range of tasks that support people living with dementia and their carers. When they have graduated their training they are matched to a household that suits their temperament.
Once introduced into their new home they receive focused training to perform specific tasks that are particular to that environment and person. They then become a working member of the family and help maintain routines, provide physical and emotional grounding and can be a joyful and pleasant distraction.
They are registered as official assistance dogs and can travel on public transport and enter some public buildings.