Q&A with Canine Partners

National assistance dog charity, Canine Partners celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year (2020). However the Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic has brought the charity many challenges when it comes to training assistance dogs for people living with physical disabilities across the UK.

Canine Partners and many charities in the UK need your help more than ever to recover from the ongoing crisis to make sure this year isn’t their last. Here we find out more about the work the charity does and how you can support them.

Dominique and Misty

Who are Canine Partners and who does the charity help?

Canine Partners is a registered charity that transformsthelivesofpeople with physical disabilities by partnering them with assistance dogs. Our amazing dogs bring a greater independence and quality of life to their partners, offering security, companionship, and practical help with everyday household tasks. These life- changing dogs also provide psychological and social benefits including increased independence, confidence, social interaction and self- esteem.

Our assistance dogs are trained to meet the needs of individuals with a wide range of physical disabilities. We currently help adults aged 18 and over (both civilians and former service personnel) who have a physical disability or condition that affects their daily life and limits their independence.

How important is the work you do at Canine Partners?

There are hundreds of people with physical disabilities across the UK partnered with our dogs, each with a different story to tell about how their lives have been enhanced by our amazing canine partners. Here is a quote from one of our partners, Dominique, whose life was transformed when she was partnered with canine partner Misty in June 2019.

“Misty has wholeheartedly given me a momentous chunk of my independence back. Overall, thanks to my partnership with Misty: my chronic pain is more manageable, my fatigue levels have lessened, and my anxiety and fear have begun to subside. Furthermore, although a vast amount of my symptomatology related to my disability and illness still remain and will not disappear – having Misty by my side in those horrible times makes fighting through the hard times that little bit easier. I feel so incredibly lucky for having Canine Partners in my life. They not only gave me the most devoted and sweet-natured assistance dog, but they’ve also continued to give me support, encouragement and life-skills related to overcoming hurdles related to disabled living.”

How soon do you start training your assistance dogs?

Our canine partners undertake a specialist two- year training programme, which begins from selection at seven to eight weeks old. They spend 12 to 14 months in puppy training with a volunteer, followed by four months’ advanced training at one of our Training Centres. At all stages training is fun and reward- based.

Can any dog become an assistance dog?

We generally use retriever based breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers andcrossesofthesebreeds. They are ideal as their breeding means they naturally suited to the task work, they are large enough to carry out the work, trainable, sociable and popular with the public. We have had some success with other breeds, such as Poodles and crosses, used particularly for their fleece hair for people with allergies to fur, however they are generally more challenging to work with.

What happens to the assistance dogs once they retire?

At Canine Partners, each partnership is individually monitored and assessed, to decide on the most appropriate age to retire the dog. However this is no later than 11 years of age. Once the dogs reach retirement they can either stay with their partner as a domestic pet, though the partner would need to be able to look after both the retired dog as a pet and any subsequent assistance dog, be re-homed by a family member, or we will find a suitable adoptive homeforthedog’sremaining life. We commit to the life of the partner, therefore we encourage them to apply for a successor dog and they are prioritised on our waiting list.

How can anyone help to support Canine Partners in their 30th Year?

The Covid-19 crisis is impacting our fundraising andweanticipateashortfall of £1 million in the funds we expected to raise this year. The crisis means an increased health risk and greater isolation for many of our 452 partners and we know our amazing dogs are a lifeline, providing practical support, companionship and security. Our number one goal is to maintain this support when it is needed most, but in the most challenging of times. A donation at this crucial time will help make sure that when this crisis ends, Canine Partners will continue to be there for our partners and with every hope, train amazing dogs to transform even more lives.

Please donate today to help secure the future of Canine Partners by visiting caninepartners.org.uk/helpprotectourfuture