From rescue dog to life-changer

A dog who found himself without a home after a change in his family’s circumstances meant he could no longer stay with them, is set to transform the life of a child with autism.  

Bear, a Labrador, is training to become an autism assistance dog with the charity Support Dogs, after Dogs Trust Manchester Assistant Manager, Rebecca Smith, spotted the three-year-old's potential.  

Rebecca says: 

“As soon as you meet Bear you know he is very special. He is full of energy and fun,  but he also has a really loving nature and is very receptive to training. I got in touch  with Support Dogs, they met him the next day and he’s never looked back!” 

Having passed a four-week trial period with flying colours, Bear is loving life with foster carers whilst he undergoes six months of training with Supports Dogs to ensure he’s got what it takes to become an assistance dog.  

Danielle Kennedy, Dog Recruitment and Assessor for Support Dogs, said:  

“As soon as I met Bear at Dogs Trust I knew he had fantastic potential and his  training is going really well. We are building his confidence in busy places he may go  with a child with autism such as shops and the park, so we can be confident he will  stay calm when he’s out and about with a family.   

“He is now also used to wearing his jacket and as soon as the jacket goes on, he  knows he’s got a job to do, and he’s totally focused.”  

Autism support dogs help keep children safe as well as providing companionship, helping them become more independent and socially confident, they also provide comfort and can reduce behavioural outbursts. 

Danielle explains:  

“Children with autism often don’t want to go out at all, but with an assistance dog by  their side they feel much more confident. Going to a local park or on a day trip  with their family becomes possible. They can expand their world in ways that  just wouldn’t be possible without a dog like Bear.  

“An assistance dog also helps keep a child safe. A child with autism has little sense  of danger and may tend to run or wander off from their care givers. When they go out  with an assistance dog, they are attached so the dog can, for example, stop them  running into the road.  

“Also, our assistance dogs are trained to give full body rests that can help calm a  child in an upsetting situation. The pressure of the dog’s body or head on the child  can reassure them and provide comfort.” 

As well as Bear being trained as a Support Dog, dogs from Dogs Trust Manchester have been trained to become police dogs and have also worked with Service Dogs UK, helping veterans who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Rebecca says:  

“It’s fantastic that Bear is doing so well, and we are really proud of all of our dogs who have gone on to help people in so many ways.   

“One in four Support Dogs come from rescue centres or were unwanted pets and yet  they go on to show the love, devotion and skill needed to transform the lives of   children and adults with autism, epilepsy and disability. 

“We’ve got our fingers crossed that Bear’s training continues to go well and look  forward to hearing all about the forever family he is going to join.”   

To find out more about Dogs Trust dogs waiting to start their own adventures with new families, please click here. To find out more about Support Dogs and its work with rescue dogs, please go to www.supportdogs.org.uk