We provide dog training to clients, with mental health conditions, who have their own dog and can demonstrate a need for specific training, tailored to their individual needs, conducted in their home or other location considered to be safe. Each client's dog is trained specifically for them, to give them increased confidence, comfort and companionship. We can train the dog to be better behaved, easier to handle or to perform special tasks, whatever the client will benefit from them doing.
Darwin Dogs CIC is a Community Interest Company, a not for profit organisation with a charitable purpose, formed in March 2014, after a successful 3 year pilot project, that we called Dogs for Mental Health.
If the client has a diagnosed disability we can train the dog to be an Assistance Dog. If the client is not disabled, or if the dog cannot reach the high standards required to qualify, we can still help them to have a well trained, supporting dog, that we call a Canine PA. It has been shown that the client starts to reap great benefits just from the training process, so your help starts at Day 1.
We have helped many people and their dogs form a better partnership and improve their life, 4 of which are fully qualified Assistance Dogs. We are currently working with 12 more clients, all with different levels of need and requirements from their dog.
Bearing in mind that the Mental Health Foundation tell us that 1 in 6 British adults are experiencing a mental health problem at any given time we can see the potential for many more partnerships.
One night at our usual training class a lady, who had been training with us for a few weeks, stayed after the class and asked if I could help her train her dog to be an Assistance Dog. She explained she had a mental illness that caused her physical and mental problems and she was convinced her dog would be able to help her.
Cautiously I agreed and started researching her illness, which was probably one of the most complex and poorly understood mental health conditions she could have had. Basically it caused her balance problems, dreadful nightmares from which she awoke screaming, she wasn’t allowed out on her own because she would forget where she was and how to get home, anxieties and depression. Not surprisingly, she had very low confidence levels and tended to stay at home most of the time, not wanting to be a burden on her family and friends.
Together we started training her dog, Darwin, and slowly I could see changes happening.
She started going out more, because she felt more confident with him. She used him to lean on if she felt wobbly, he picked things up if she dropped something, rather than previously bending down for it herself and invariably falling over. If she did fall he would stand and allow her to use him to get back up again.
She says he opened her world up for her again.
Watch an interview with Darwin’s owner here:
It took us about 3 years to fully train Darwin but even from the start we could see what a huge difference he made to his owner’s life. We decided to try and train more “Darwins” for people with mental health problems. And so Darwin Dogs was born.