Scotland’s first prison based assistance dog training programme
Launched in May 2017, the collaborative dog training project based at HMP Castle Huntly is an innovative collaboration between the Scottish Prison Service, Paws for Progress CIC and the Dementia Dog Project. The Dementia Dog Project is a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good.
In 2017 we successfully piloted the first assistance dog training programme in Scotland, providing 3 cycles of our dog training and care programme for men in custody at HMP Castle Huntly.
Our innovative dog training partnership project enables men in custody to complete an introductory dog training and care course with Paws for Progress, working with our team of Ambassadogs. With our continued support and guidance, on completion of the introductory course students then have the opportunity to assist the team at the Dementia Dog Project who work on site at HMP Castle Huntly. Students assist with the training of dementia assistance dogs that will go on to transform the lives of people with dementia in the community.
The programme aims to develop employability skills, enhance engagement with education, and improve participants’ well-being, while improving dog welfare more widely and helping provide highly trained assistance dogs to help people living with dementia in the community.
Students develop valuable transferable skills whilst increasing engagement in education and utilising volunteering and community placements. Learning whilst focusing on dogs provides an excellent opportunity to collaborate with Fife College, enabling students to achieve contextualised SQA qualifications through working with the dogs.
Beneficiaries include local people with dementia who receive a trained assistance dog to provide them with support, and long-term prisoners who gain skills, qualifications and carry out valuable charitable work during their time in custody.
The Scottish Prison Service plays a key role through the provision of excellent, dedicated facilities on site and through supporting the students taking part.
The Assistance dogs taking part will go on to be placed with a local person with dementia and their partner / carer, with the aim of helping them to maintain their independence and enhance their quality of life.
“It’s a really good learning tool, for teaching responsibility – not just in terms of how to manage dogs, but how to apply those skills and sense of responsibility to other areas – it’s transferable skills.” Dog Project student, HMP Castle Huntly, 2017.
“You’re doing it for a purpose. You know that the dogs are going to live with somebody… you know you’re making a difference. So, with training them, they’re going to somebody and its giving something back. If we’re doing something like this– we’re trying to change our ways. It’s all positive.” Dog Project student, HMP Castle Huntly, 2017.