When our Heroes return from conflicts around the world it is often not just their physical injuries that need healing. More and more assistance dogs are being used to help the rehabilitation of our wounded heroes.
Assistance dogs have been used in civilian life to assist the hearing impaired, visually impaired and physically disabled members of society for many years and these charities have established a network of centres to help and assist members of the public. A new charity is hoping to use assistance dogs to assist our brave men and women injured in the line of duty.
Hounds for Heroes is one such charity that is training willing, fit and healthy dogs to enhance the quality of life for wounded service personnel and members of the civilian emergency services.
The cost of training an assistance dog and its upkeep for life is in the order of $50,000 which the charity needs, to ensure there is no burden on the injured hero during the dogs lifetime.
The most suitable dogs for this type of assistance are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs. These breeds have been identified by trainers as the most suitable for therapy due to their intelligence and ability to interact with humans without over reacting to them. Dogs are usually donated by their breeders and only one pup per litter is taken to minimise genetic problems.
Training of the dogs takes the form of 14 months of basic training with a volunteer family followed by a further 8 months of training before the dog can be placed with its permanent owner. This process produces dogs that are steady and reliable and well socialised to remain secure in all situations.
As well as providing help for the injured person to cope and adjust to life after an injury the dogs offer assistance such as opening doors fetching items and any task that will assist the injured person.
The other benefit of having a canine partner is that the owner must also engage in a two way partnership and learn how to care for their dog. This provides a form of therapy in itself as the injured person must provide care for the dog such as feeding, grooming and exercise. There are other responsibilities that are required such as the correct practice, on the street and in shops, gives the injured person a new focus to assist in their rehabilitation.