Support Dogs is a UK based charity who train and provide specialist assistance dogs to those with autism, epilepsy, or physical disabilities. Since 1992, Support Dogs have helped both people and dogs! 1 in 4 of their assistance dogs were unwanted or rescued dogs! Below is Raife’s Story!
Raife: Support Dog of the Month!
Raife the clever fox-red Labrador already has a raft of domestic skills that make him the perfect canine companion. The two-year-old Lab has learnt how to load and unload the washing machine, open doors and pick up dropped items.
Raife was being trained by Sheffield-based charity Support Dogs as a disability assistance dog to provide vital practical support inside and outside the home for a client with a disability or medical condition. But because of the dog’s lively personality and high energy levels, the training team at Support Dogs decided to switch Raife to its autism assistance programme.
Now Raife is being taught all the skills he will need to spend his working life helping a child with autism to be safe, secure, and independent. Although assistance dogs need to have different characteristics for each training programme – autism, epilepsy seizure alert and disability – they all need to be confident and adaptable, dog-friendly, people-orientated with no major fears or phobias.
Raife arrived at the Brightside-based charity as one of a litter of four and spent most of his puppyhood being looked after by a local volunteer puppy socialiser. Support Dogs is committed to high standards of dog welfare, with trainee dogs never spending a night in kennels, but instead living with local foster carers.
Raife is now with a foster carer family in Sheffield with a child, to help him get used to living in a household with children. “The original plan for him was to be a disability assistance dog but we felt because Raife is so active the autism programme would be more suitable,” says Support Dogs trainer Jemima McLanaghan.
“Autism assistance dogs have to be quite confident and have to be quite adaptable. When Raife first came into training he was quite under-confident, but he has progressed so much and now is very confident. I’ve started taking him to play areas where there are lots of children and he’s been great. “He is very lively, always wagging his tail and his entire bum! He has all the energy in the world. “
Having learnt all the domestic duties expected of a disability assistance dog, Raife is now learning lots of new tasks that will help him transform the life of a child with autism – such as how to ‘brace’ when a child, attached to him by a harness, tries to run off, and prevent them getting into danger.
Autism assistance dogs are trained to keep a child safe using a wide range of methods, reducing the risk of injury or distress for the child and reducing stress and anxiety for the child’s family. “He’s sailing through his training, he just needs to relax and chill out a bit now!” adds Jemima.
“He will be introduced to the child he will be working with in September and will start training with the child and parents at their home in January. We expect great things of Raife!”
Support Dogs is a national charity based in Brightside, Sheffield. They train assistance dogs for children with autism and adults with epilepsy and physical disabilities. The dogs enable people to lead safer, more independent lives.
• Do you have a much-loved pet dog under the age of three that you can no longer look after who you would like to donate to Support Dogs to give it a second chance in life? If so, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
• For more information about Support Dogs go to www.supportdogs.org.uk