Assistance dog fosters self-reliance

The Dutch Foundation Stichting Hulphond Nederland has been training dogs to become assistance dogs for the last thirty years. The Foundation trains the dogs in skills to help people with physical disabilities or therapeutic needs, enabling them to function independently and to take part in society.

Children and adults suffering from severe physical disabilities, epilepsy or trauma can be eligible to get an assistance dog. In addition Hulphond works together with youth and mental healthcare institutions in therapy sessions for children with autism, ADHD and/or other behavioural problems. A helper dog offers people the prospect of an independent life. The dog fulfils an important role in daily activities, such as getting dressed, shopping and going to work. And their presence gives their owners the confidence they need to undertake activities independently.

Before a helper dog can be deployed, an intensive and costly course of training is required to teach the animal all the necessary skills. This is done in the Hulphond training centre and in a host family. Once the assistance dog has successfully completed the training, it’s time for home training. The dog’s new owner learns how he or she has to deal with the dog. But even after this course of training, more training and intensive supervision is required. This form of education is key, because many clients suffer from a progressive illness or condition, which means that the dog is often required to learn additional skills.

The passage from pup to assistance dog is a long one, with many challenges. Consequently high-level educational support is of major importance. The Rabo Foundation Client Fund has made a donation to Hulphond Nederland for the training of new assistance dogs and the development of a digital learning environment for host families. This will improve the success rate in training new helper dogs.