The Dog Training Rehabilitation Programme
The Value of Human Animal Interactions; a huge success

Wow! What an amazing experience. We have been completely blown away by the positive response to our event ‘The Value of Human Animal Interactions’ which took place last weekend. Thank you to absolutely EVERYONE involved, from our fantastic speakers who provided a valuable insight into the work going on in this field across the country, our wonderful guests who we were delighted to have the opportunity to connect with, our generous sponsors Blair Drummond Safari Park, our supporters KONG and last but not least the team of Paws staff and volunteers who have worked hard over the last few months preparing for the event. We are thrilled to learn that everyone enjoyed the event as much as we did, and that you all found it a valuable and inspiring experience.

The energy, passion and enthusiasm  from everyone involved was absolutely phenomenal. We really are delighted to have had the opportunity to bring together so many fantastic people from all over the country. From speaking to our guests, it is clear that there is a great desire for more opportunities to network and collaborate with others working in the field of Human Animal Interactions. There are several excellent organisations working to provide such opportunities to connect, such as People & Animals whose next meeting is in October 2015. Given the hugely positive reaction to our Paws for Progress event, we hope that Value HAI was the first of many events we will have the pleasure of hosting.

We really appreciate the amazing feedback we have had from our guests, as this is key to helping us shape our future events. See the bottom of this post for a snapshot of the feedback so far! If you attended the event and didn’t have the opportunity to give us some feedback, we would greatly appreciate it if you could follow the link here and download our event feedback form which can then be emailed to us at info@pawsforprogress.co.uk.

Our special friendsWe’d like to take the opportunity to give you an overview of the event and the excellent speakers who attended to share their knowledge, experience and details regarding the organisations they are involved in. Click on the links to find out more about each organisation.

“This was genuinely the best conference I have ever attended, so inspiring and right in line with my interests and aspirations.”

The Value of Human Animal Interactions: Event Summary

We were very pleased that many delegates provided displays and stands to share the work of the organisations they were representing. Throughout the two days there were many opportunities to network among the stands, providing a fantastic opportunity for guests to connect and find out more about other organisations.

Each day, the morning talks were opened by a warm welcome from Richard Tuckley, Chair of the Board of Directors at Paws for Progress CIC.

Friday 18th September, 2015.

On Friday, Rebecca Leonardi (Paws for Progress) shared exclusive insights into the

development of the Paws at HM YOI Polmont programme where we have been very successfully working with young offenders and rescue dogs for over four years. In addition to exploring how this programme developed, Rebecca highlighted features which are integral to the successful development of HAI programmes in general.

We were thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Ormerod as a guest speaker on behalf of IAHAIO as she has been a pioneer in this field for many years and has always been a huge support to us at Paws for Progress. Liz gave a valuable insight into critical aspects of animal welfare that we should consider when delivering animal assisted interventions, and discussed the importance of carefully matching the suitability of each individual animal’s characteristics (including species, breed, temperament and energy requirements) to specific programmes to better enhance their welfare and the well-being of the people interacting with them.

“I liked the honest, personal experiences that presenters shared with us during the presentations.”

Belinda Johnston from Our Special Friends then gave an excellent presentation sharing the work that she and her team of volunteers are carrying out through OSF, a young charity which has huge potential for enhancing the well-being of vulnerable people. She highlighted the importance of considering the impact of involvement in Animal Assisted Activities for all involved, not only the clients and animals but also the volunteers. Belinda highlighted the importance of working collaboratively with multiple organisations to enhance one another’s work, a theme which was reiterated throughout the event.

The afternoon sessions consisted of a selection of workshops and talks facilitated by speakers from a range of impressive organisations based throughout the UK.

On the Friday afternoon, Selina Gibsone shared some of the excellent work which is being carried out by Dogs for the Disabled. It was brilliant to hear how Dogs for the Disabled have now branched out through their “Community Dog” project to work with young people in schools. In part to reflect their work with a wider range of people, Dogs for the Disabled is being rebranded and will soon become Dogs for Good. Selina’s workshop also provided the opportunity for delegates to get involved and go back to the drawing board when designing a new Animal Assisted Intervention, giving us the chance to discuss the key first steps when developing an AAI and to consider the challenges we may face.

“This is the first Human Animal Interaction event I have attended after dozens of one or the other. Having set up a Human Animal Interaction organisation it was refreshing & enlightening to meet others in the field & learn about other organisations work.”


Tracie Faa-Thompson, from Turn About Pegasus, delivered a fascinating workshop exploring how Animal Assisted Play Therapy can achieve positive outcomes for disadvantaged and disengaged young people. In an inspiring discussion,Tracie shared how the activities that she delivers through Turn About Pegasus develop young people’s caring skills and empathy, improve communication and interpersonal relationships, and improve their confidence. In the absence of her skilled team of equine co-therapists, Tracie gave us an opportunity to experience a communication task using bananas as a substitute, which was both thought provoking and a lot of fun!

We were particularly pleased to have a representative from our generous sponsors, Blair Drummond Safari Park, attending as a guest speaker. Craig Holmes, head of Barbary Macaques and Tigers at the local Safari Park, looked at Human Animal blair drummond logoInteractions in a different area by discussing the welfare of the captive animals he works with. This provided a valuable insight into the benefits of training for exotic animals for their welfare, health and enrichment. Craig also explained the importance of connecting the visitors and animals in order to raise awareness and improve the future of both wild and captive exotic animals. There is some very exciting and pioneering training going on at Blair Drummond, and Craig and his team are clearly dedicated and passionate about enhancing the welfare of the animals they care for.

“A well organised event that introduced and explored a number of new topics for me. You did the topic of Human Animal Interactions justice.”

Kerri Bee shared details of the innovative work of  SPPOT, Supporting People and Pets through Opportunity and Training, a unique social enterprise in Wales. SPPOT brings the needs of people together with the needs of dogs, through the provisionof quality-driven training, volunteering opportunities, services and events. Kerri explained how training courses for people are at the core of their work; SPPOT specialise in training people who have long term illnesses, disabilities or other disadvantages as Dog Walkers, Home Boarders and Pet Sitters, whilst also benefiting dogs too, by promoting kind, effective methods of training and handling and providing skilled volunteers to help dogs in the community. It was fantastic to hear about such an excellent initiative which benefits all involved.

After a busy day, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend a relaxed evening socialising and networking further over dinner. From the feedback our guests have provided, one of the key benefits of attending the event was the networking, and the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Another recurring theme throughout the event was the importance of engaging in collaborative working, and spending time together sharing our experiences is key to creating the opportunity to connect and collaborate.

“A wonderful event and fantastic opportunity for networking. It was a great honour to be a guest speaker.”

Saturday 19th September

The incredible positivity and enthusiasm from the first day of the event continued into the second. Our speakers and delegates  did a phenomenal job once again, starting on the Saturday with a talk from Rebecca Leonardi from Paws for Progress.

This time, Rebecca focused on the outcomes of the evaluation of Paws for Progress at HM YOI Polmont. This was an exclusive opportunity to share the overwhelmingly positive impact that this prison based programme for young people and rescue dogs has for all parties involved.

“Huge thanks to Paws for Progress for an exceptionally fascinating, enjoyable & often moving conference. Congratulations on the amazing evaluation results.”

The research focus continued on the Saturday morning as Rebecca’s description of the evaluation of Paws for Progress was followed by a talk by Joanne Williams, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. Jo discussed
the importance of increasing our focus on the relationship between children and animals, which sadly is often neglected as an area of research. Jo shared how research and practise can be effectively integrated, describing her experiences collaborating together with a team of researchers and partnering organisations to educate children and young people to promote positive Human Animal Interactions and enhance animal welfare. Research clearly pays a critical role, enabling us to better understand and enhance relationships between children and animals.

Jo’s work linked in extremely well with that of our next speaker, Lesley Winton, who paw-in-handshared with us the incredible work that is being carried out in Scotland through the Fostering Compassion programme. The programme works with cared for children and animals to engage children positively with animals and help to reverse the negative cycle of abuse they may have suffered. Hearing about the impact this work is having on young people was emotional at times, but overwhelmingly inspiring. Once again, the importance of connecting and collaborating with other organisations was highlighted, which was promptly followed by more networking over lunch.

 “You have all inspired me in the topic of Human Animal Interactions.” 

Our afternoon workshops were again facilitated by a wide range of organisations, giving access to the wealth of different work which is being carried out across the UK.

Jeni Lennox from Dementia Dog delivered a beautiful presentation about this exciting young project which is based in Scotland and was developed collaboratively by Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled. She shared the incredible work that the Dementia Dog team are doing to support people living with Dementia and their families, whether that be through practical, emotional or social support. The way in which the dogs are able to contribute to all these different forms of support in an unparalleled fashion was fascinating to hear about, and sparked an interesting discussion on the positive support that pet dogs, even those who are not trained as support dogs, provide their owners.

Katie Bristow, from People & Animals delivered a fascinating workshop exploring how Animal Assisted Interventions can be utilised to help improve a wide range of outcomes. Katie discussed how activities and intervention goals can be designed to target individual needs, whilst also emphasising the importance of remaining flexible and responsive, and considering what the broader effects and benefits may be. Through interactive tasks, our guests explored different scenarios and discussed how interacting with animals and integrating activities with the individual client’s interests can really maximise the benefits for those involved.

“Venue was great, organisation excellent,  thank you so much for a brilliant event.”

The final workshops on the Saturday continued to provide valuable insights into the Value of Human Animal Interactions in different contexts.

Ruby Shorrock, founder of the Trusty Paws Clinic which provides free vet treatment for homeless peoples’s dogs, ran a thought provoking workshop which considered attitudes towards homeless people who own dogs, Ruby featureand the impact of homelessness on both parties. Discussions explored the incredible bond created by living in such close proximity with an animal, providing constant companionship to each other, whilst also highlighting the need to provide more support for homeless people who own dogs, such as more dog friendly hostels and opportunities to access veterinary treatment. This workshop was eye-opening, and it was wonderful to hear about the excellent work that has been carried out at the Trusty Paws Clinic since it was founded last year.

Marion Janner, who set up the charity Star Wards to provide improved experiences for mental health patients and staff, gave a moving testimonial of what life is like for someone with mental illness, and the positive impact that her support dog Buddy has had through providing non-judgemental companionship and support. The close partnership between Marion and Buddy was a delight to see, and it was wonderful to hear from the perspective of someone who has made an active change to help others who are also struggling from mental illness.

“A wonderful opportunity.”
“This was the best conference ever (and I have been to dozens and dozens in the past), thank you.” 
“It was mind-blowing, I will be coming again.”
“Excellent conference – superb. Cutting edge presentations.” 
“Well structured, friendly and excellent  opportunity for networking.”

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