Press Release – 8th December 2021
Paws for Progress are delighted to announce the successful re-launch of the UK’s first Rescue Dog Training Programme for Young Offenders at HMP & YOI Polmont and the success of our partnership with Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home. We’re thrilled that rescue dogs have returned to the prison for the first time since the pandemic forced this ground-breaking project to be paused, offering life changing opportunities for both young people and dogs.
Paws for Progress is a local Community Interest Company that originated as a PhD research project at the University of Stirling, working in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service over the last decade to help young offenders through teaching them to train dogs from local rescue organisations.
The most recent canine students on the programme are participating thanks to the involvement of Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home. Lola, a lively and friendly Beagle-cross, and Finn, a sweet and gentle spaniel, were the first dogs to take part in this eight-week training course since the pandemic hit. They have been successfully rehomed, alongside a total of 7 other rescue dogs who have taken part since the programme’s recent relaunch.
The dogs currently taking part in the programme are Mabel and Jack. Mabel is a gorgeous young English Bull Terrier X who is very friendly and fun. She is a young girl, so she’s really benefiting from learning her basic training skills and self-control at the prison.
Meanwhile Jack is a lovely young Weimaraner-Rottweiler cross. He can be shy initially, but comes out of his shell and is affectionate and playful once he knows you! Jack is currently working on building his confidence meeting new people and exploring new places.
As part of this innovative service, young men are selected and taught how to train and prepare rescue dogs for rehoming. While learning new skills together the students often discover parallels between their own lives and that of the dogs that they are working with.
Each dog is assigned a dedicated handler/trainer who works with them throughout the course. The programme aims to support those taking part to improve their own behaviour, develop team building skills, increase empathy and employability skills as well as assisting their personal development. They also engage with education and achieve qualifications thanks to a collaboration with Fife College.
Evidence demonstrates that there are a host of benefits from taking part in prison-based dog training programmes¹. Paws for Progress is also hugely beneficial for the dogs involved, with increased social interaction while learning new skills via positive reinforcement techniques. This greatly improves the dog’s chance of being successfully rehomed in the future.
Dogs in rescue need our support more than ever before, with many “pandemic puppies” bought during the COVID-19 pandemic now being relinquished to rescues as their owners find that they can’t meet their needs in a post-lockdown world.
The rescue dogs selected for the Paws for Progress programme have all been working hard with the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home training team and are identified as having a huge amount of potential, which makes them great candidates for the Paws for Progress ‘Pup School’. Participating in the programme allows rescue dogs to build on their training and work on their socialisation, whilst the Home continue the search for their forever homes.
Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, CEO at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, said:
“Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home are incredibly excited to be entering into a partnership with Paws for Progress, showcasing our passion for enhancing animal welfare through influencing others to give animals a second chance. For both the young men and the dogs who are part of the programme this offers an opportunity to be valued for their hard work, new skills and dedication to a goal. So ultimately, they are more prepared to face the future”.
Rebecca Leonardi, Development Manager and Founder of Paws for Progress, said:
“Paws for Progress are delighted to welcome Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home to the wonderful collaboration of organisations making our rescue dog training programme at HMP & YOI Polmont a great success. The impact for the young people and dogs involved is profound, and the charitable aspect of helping the rescue dogs is very important to our students.
We’ve been delighted to welcome the rescue dogs from EDCH back to our programme, and we are proud to be celebrating the successful relaunch of our rescue dog training programme following the pandemic. This is a huge milestone, and we have no doubt that Mabel, Jack and all the rescue dogs we’re having the pleasure of meeting have bright futures ahead of them.
We couldn’t do this valuable work alone, and we are most grateful for the support of the Scottish Prison Service, Fife College, the University of Stirling, all of the local dog rescue organisations involved, and our generous funders and supporters including The National Lottery Community Fund”.
¹“You Think You’re Helping Them, But They’re Helping You Too”: Experiences of Scottish Male Young Offenders Participating in a Dog Training Programme.
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