Dementia Dog started its life as a Glasgow School of Art service design project commissioned by Alzheimer Scotland that secured the attention and funding of both the Scottish Executive and the Design Council through the Living Well with Dementia Challenge. It began as a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland, The Glasgow School of Art, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs UK, bringing together the teams’ expertise in dementia care and provision of trained assistance dogs.
Following the successful completion of the research stage and having secured additional funding, Dementia Dog has embarked on its first small-scale pilot scheme, based at the Guide Dogs for the Blind training facility in Forfar, Angus.
A number of dogs were identified as potential candidates for the programme and four passed their initial training to progress to matching with families.
Matching is a crucial part of any assistance dog programme numerous attributes such as temperament (human and canine) size and walking speed are taken into consideration.
All four dogs were matched with families and we currently have three qualified dementia assistance dogs placed with individuals with dementia and their carers in Forfar. These partnerships have been up and running since June 2013. The project is tracking the progress of the couples and their canine companions as the families live with the daily realities of dementia. The families are supported by regular communications and visits from the Dogs for the Disabled team trainers and by Alzheimer Scotland local staff.
Assistance dogs are a big commitment, the chemistry between dog and family is crucial and much learning was gathered from the fourth partnership which did not progress. Vonn the assistance dog was withdrawn and is now happily retired. Both dog and family are doing well, and we are grateful for their participation and their input to the pilot.
The project will now follow our assistance dogs, through their working lives. The initial research phase will run for two years from the qualification of the partnerships.
The partners are busy exploring other models of delivering dog. By summer 2015 we hope to have progressed to a developed model for national roll out.
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Dementia Dog is supported by Alzheimer Scotland. Alzheimer Scotland - Action on Dementia is a company limited by guarantee, registered in Scotland 149069. Registered Office: 22 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7RN. It is recognised as a charity by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, no. SC022315. Visit our main website at: www.alzscot.org