Meet our Recent Graduates
In the Associations Focus Magazine May-July 2020, we introduced you to the Defence Community Dogs (DCD) Program and how it works. We would like to now tell you a little about the process….
Veterans often require a mix of mental, physical, and social support. This means that DCD dogs need to master a wide range of skills and to be trained to help their Veteran cope in many situations. These must all be learnt and perfected before qualifying as an Assistance Dog and meeting their new Veteran.
Once the dogs have completed their training, the next step in the program is for them to meet their new Veteran. It is vital the Veteran knows how to communicate with their new Assistance Dog before they leave, so the most important thing we focus on is the training commands. Commands such as bring and drop can be adapted from a ball, to an item of clothing that needs to go into the washing machine, depending on the Veteran’s requirements.
This is done during an 8-day Handover workshop where the Veteran learns all about their new dog, the specialised training and starts their first steps towards rebuilding their lives.
The old cliche “Dogs are for life not just for Christmas” is true of any dog. However having a dog with you 24/7 is an even bigger change for our Veteran recipients so it’s important they bond and get to know how to look after each other before they are handed over.
Whilst Assistance Dogs are allowed in more locations than pet dogs, many Veteran recipients initially lack confidence when in public spaces and around groups of people. For this reason, we structure our workshop to include trips to different venues. The results have been phenomenal. We’ve had recipients go from having not left their home locations for a long time (for some it has been years), to presenting in front of an audience!
Although 2020 was a tough year for everyone, we are pleased to announce that we managed to hold some handover workshops at the end of the year and graduate 3 dogs. Here are their stories….
Ella had been in the centre a little longer than normal due to the 2020 COVID restrictions, but it meant she got a lot of extra training and was ecstatic to be finally placed with her Veteran. Ella loves fetching balls, but most of all loves other dogs and humans. Ella is a happy and outgoing dog and settling nicely into her forever home after graduating in December 2020. We hear she can’t get enough of playing with the kids and the kids bubbles machine in their backyard.
Charlie came to us with high separation anxiety after being rescued from a pound. He barked and whined a lot, but through the help and patience of our trainers at Bathurst Correctional, Charlie has made a huge turnaround and become a friendly and confident dog. He loves to go to the gym and watch whilst his Veteran gets back into the world of martial arts. We are delighted how much he is already helping his Veteran since graduating in November, although we hear he also has a soft spot for the new baby in the family and will go to her whenever she is upset. Charlie has also helped the family to attend the beach as a whole unit again and he loves it!
Ollie came into the DCD program after being surrendered by his owners who could no longer look after him due to illness. Ollie came in quite overweight but training in our Bathurst Correctional Centre has brought him back 100% health. Ollie loves pats and would spend his whole day running around collecting them from everyone if he could! His new Veteran tells us that he’s currently favouring the air conditioning in this hot summer and the kids are desperate to teach him new tricks.
DCD Assistance Dogs are given to ADF Veterans at NO COST.
To apply or to support Defence Community Dogs visit www.dcdogs.com.au