How do I enquire about or apply for a dog?
In the first instance please contact our client liaison officer, Kath Bates:
Telephone: +44 (0)207 724 0041
UPDATE, FEBRUARY 2016: PLEASE NOTE THAT DUE TO CURRENT COMMITMENTS WE ARE UNFORTUNATELY UNABLE TO ACCEPT ANY NEW APPLICATIONS FOR DOGS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
I already have a dog. Am I eligible to apply for an Alert Dogs UK dog?
Due to the very specific and highly demanding nature of the work our assistance dogs do, we require them to be the only dog in the household. We do not place dogs in households with other dogs or with a large number of other animal/pet distractions.
Can my pet dog be trained to be a medical assistance dog?
Alert Dogs UK do not work with dogs outside our own programme. Our assistance dogs are required to have an extremely specialised set of skills, to be highly reliable, and to be proofed against competing motivators in a wide variety of challenging environments. Our dogs are carefully bred from parents with specific characteristics, and begin their training at 8 weeks old.
How reliable are the dogs?
Our Diabetic Alert Dogs are required to have an alerting accuracy of 90% or above, and a false positive rate of 10% or below, and this should be regularly monitored throughout the lifetime of the partnership between dog and client.
Our Allergen Detection Dogs demonstrate near 100% accuracy in controlled training environments. However, this cannot be expected in the "real world", and even the most skilled and motivated scent dog may be expected to miss odours on occassion.
The dogs are not infallible. They are a resource to support and enhance the lives of people living with disabilities and serious medical needs; they can and do save lives; but they should always be thought of as an additional aid rather than a foolproof solution.
What types of dogs do you use?
We work with Labradors Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, German Shephards, Poodles, and crosses of the above. We have found that crossing the shepard breeds into the mix can often result in a dog which is obedient and a great companion, but also has the high drive and stamina to successfully rise to the demands of medical assistance work.
What is the law regarding access for assistance dogs?
The Equality Act 2010 ensures that people with disabilities who rely on an assistance dog have the right to access education, employment, housng, public transport and services. The Act applies in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland falls under the jurisdiction of the Equalities Commission for Northern Ireland.
The Act requires all employers, managers of premises, and those providing goods, services or facilities to make reasonable adjustments, and makes it unlawful for a disabled person to be discriminated against, harassed or treated less favourably because of their disability or anything connected with their disability, including for example their use of an assistance dog.
I am a vulnerable person. Can your dogs also be trained to be guard or protection dogs?
In short, no. Protection training is generally poorly compatible with the training of assistance dogs, which need to be even-tempered, highly tolerant of strangers and strange situations, and extremely unlikely to bite.
We can however train our dogs to bark on cue. This can be very effective and provide reassurance to a vulnerable client, while avoiding the risks associated with protection-trained dogs.
How do you train the dogs?
We use marker training, which is reward-based and which draws on theories of classical conditioning (associative learning) and operant conditioning (instrumental learning). For our alert and detection dogs, identifying or finding an odour becomes an exciting game in which they are consistently rewarded with food and play to possitively reinforce the desired behaviour.
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