We are in the initial stages of raising funds to develop a training programme to assist people with Mental Health Disabilities train their own Mental Health Assistance Dogs or what we have coined 'Guides for the Mind Assistance Dogs' (G4DM ADs). These dogs will be trained to perform specific assistive tasks to mitigate specific disabling symptoms of clients' Mental Health Conditions, enabling them to access independence and participate in the activities of every-day living. 

Benefits of Owner/Handler-Trained 'Guides For the Mind' Assistance Dogs (Mental Health Assistance Dogs)

There are numerous benefits to people with Mental Health Disabilities training their own 'Guides for the Mind' Assistance Dogs, with the support of suitably qualified dog trainers

  1. Many people living with a disabling Mental Health Condition lack confidence, self-belief and social/transferable skills. Through the training of and relationship with their own puppy/dog, they increase in confidence and self-esteem, developing social and transferable skills that can enable them to follow their dreams, transition into voluntary/paid work or education, even training and entering into the profession of Dog Training and Behavioural Counselling.
  2. Most people are drawn to certain breeds or sizes of dogs. By being able to choose the breed of their dog they are likely to develop a good bond with that dog, vital for the success of a good working partnership.
  3. Having the puppy live in the place it is to work, right from the start, ensures that they are exposed to the things and environments they will encounter for the rest of their life at the appropriate developmental stages, minimising the likelihood that they will react negatively to these and be unable to progress to become a qualified 'Guides for the Mind' Assistance Dog. It also allows for a deeper bond to form between the handler and the dog, which makes for a better working relationship.
  4. Owner/Handler trainers can establish a sense of safety and security for their puppy/dog, by providing a single 'Forever Home'. The dog will never have the experience of bonding with one person only to have that bond broken through changes in handlers and living arrangements, as happens when trained through an Assistance Dogs' charity program that may cause trauma, confusion or behavioural issues. The trust and love within the partnership will be much stronger as the dog has always experienced stability and has not had its heart broken, ensuring for a greater likelihood that the dog will willingly assist that person.
  5. Learning to train one's puppy/dog may be challenging but it is also very enjoyable and fulfilling, especially seeing one's puppy/dog develop new skills and grow in character and confidence, which in turn is a boost to mental well-being.
  6. All the time the puppy/dog spends with the person with the Mental Health Disability they will be tracking their every move, learning their baseline behaviours and dispositions, noticing changes in their physiology due to their mental illness. The dog will begin to respond to this in a specific way. This allows the person to intervene at the earliest stages of their mental illness and use strategies to alleviate or help prevent their symptoms escalating. This is something nobody else can teach to the dog (Esnayra, J. 2009).