When students initially become involved in the project, they complete an introductory dog training course with the Paws for Progress team and Ambassadogs. Topics covered include both practical and theory in learning about dog training, behaviour and care.
The course provides students with opportunities to 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.
With continued support and guidance, on completion of the introductory dog training course, students then have the opportunity to assist the team at the Dementia Dog Project who have an established work base at HMP Castle Huntly. Here students will be closely guided to assist with the training of eight dementia assistance dogs over the next two years that – thanks to funding from the Life Changes Trust – will go on to transform lives of people with dementia in the community.
For those who have the motivation and commitment, there are further opportunities to continue onto the 3rd stage of the project; becoming an Advanced Trainer. Paws for Progress continue to support the students in this role as they progress onto tasks involving more responsibilities, such as helping the Dementia Dog team with more in-depth training for the assistance dogs on and off site. This will help to strengthen links with the community and provide valuable opportunities to enhance the students’ existing skills.
Advanced students will also have the opportunity to share their skills and experiences through mentoring new students, passing on their expertise whilst further enhancing their teaching skills.
“It’s useful, without a doubt, it’s so educational. You’re learning how to develop as a person, within yourself.” Dog Project student, HMP Castle Huntly, 2017.