So … what is Canine Partners? Is it an unusual legal firm? Or perhaps a dating agency for lonely dogs? Well, not quite, but it is an organisation that matches dogs with disabled people.
Actually, it’s a national charity that is based near Midhurst in West Sussex whose mission is to train assistance dogs to help, on a daily basis, people who have a variety of physical disabilities.These are people who might have suffered a stroke and lost mobility and dexterity; or perhaps they were born with a condition such as cerebral palsy, or contracted multiple sclerosis during their life and now have to use a wheelchair.
Or even a wounded serviceman or woman who has been serving their country. Whatever the scenario, a canine partner assistance dog can, and does, make a real difference to that person’s life.
You are now probably asking, how exactly can a dog help someone in a wheelchair?
Consider how difficult life might be if you cannot reach something that you have dropped because you are seated and to lean forward might result in a fall where you may lay undiscovered for some time. But what if you had a canine partner by your side who thinks picking that item up for you is a game? And they never get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. That could be the key to transforming the quality of your life, leading to an increased sense of confidence and independence.
Now apply that same thought to many other daily tasks where a canine companion might be able to help. A Canine Partner can open and close doors, press buttons to call lifts, load and unload the washing machine and even get help in an emergency. Imagine the increase in self esteem, the sense of companionship and sense of security that would come hand in paw with a Canine Partner by your side.
The road to training a tiny pup into a life-changing assistance dog is a patient and caring journey from puppyhood to adult dog. Our specialists choose puppies ideal for their temperament and then place them with our specially trained puppy parents who look after, socialise and train the little dogs for the first 18months of their lives.
During that time they are expected to follow some clear guidelines and training tips. Our Puppy Department (who wouldn’t want to work there?) ask that the following is adopted to help train our little stars:
1. Let them sleep! Puppies need lots of sleep – and not just a ‘cat nap’ where ever they choose. You will find that they do not sleep properly, they will follow you around and will always be aware of what you are doing if you do not put them to bed to sleep at least four times a day after feeding for at least an hour. This will also avoid separation issues later on.
2. Play! Play with your puppy, get on the floor, and play with toys swapping one for another. This is the start of a retrieve. At this stage no commands are given (you might as well be speaking Chinese!) as they have not learnt any commands. You can also swap a toy for a treat or some fuss.
3. Chewing is a completely natural behaviour; your puppy is not being naughty. Chewing relieves stress and helps with teething. Provide suitable things for your puppy to chew. Suitable items are – calcium bones, toys, carrots and broccoli stalks (these can be frozen to help cool the gums). Raw hide chews(under supervision only)
And the team also ask that a little pup is not exercised too much in their early days.
But what do our partnerships say about these incredible dogs?
One partnership, Stella who has Jenson, said: “Jenson gives me a purpose in life and I get a great deal of pleasure from him. He has helped restore my confidence and I never feel alone. The world has opened up; people see Jenson and not my problems. I am treated respectfully with Jenson at my side; he changes public perception of me. Jenson makes me laugh every day by just being him.”
Canine Partners receives no government funding. To find out more about Canine Partners please log on to www.caninepartners.org.uk.