ELIGIBILITY & APPLICATION PROCESS

Introduction

VETERANS WITH DOGS (VWD) trains assistance dogs for the purposes of recognised mental health difficulties attributable to service in the British Armed Forces only.

How to Apply

In this section you’ll find the information you need to help decide whether to apply to VWD.

Please review the eligibility criteria and the application process before requesting and filling out a Register of Interest.

In 2015, VWD revised its application process and requires that all applicants attend a PALS Meet & Greet Day prior to submitting a Full Application.

Eligibility Criteria

In order for us to accept an application, a Veteran must meet all of the following basic criteria:

  1. The applicant must be currently serving, or has previously served, in one of the British Armed Forces.
  2. The applicant must be aged 18 or over.
  3. The applicant must have a mental health diagnosis.
  4. The applicant must have a current or previous active therapy or treatment plan.
  5. The applicant must be fully committed, including attendance of residential training and ongoing regular training.
  6. The application must be completed by the Veteran.

If you feel you meet the above criteria then you should initially request a 'Register of Interest' form to complete and return.

Summary of Application Process

The following summarises the processes that are used to select candidates to participate in our programme:

  1. Submitting a Register of Interest, which is then reviewed to determine if the basic applicant criteria is met.
  2. Applicants are invited to attend a PALS Meet & Greet* Day to learn more about the programme.
  3. Applicants are then provided with a Full Application to complete, and return with relevant supporting documentation.
  4. A home visit will be scheduled to assess the suitability of the prospective home environment for a dog.
  5. Candidates for placements or training are then determined by review.

*Attendance of PALS Meet & Greet is a pre-requisite to a full application being accepted.



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


I am a Veteran - How do I get an assistance dog?

You should request a “Register of Interest” form to complete - we ask for some basic information and is NOT a full application at this stage.

Once eligibility is confirmed, we then invite you to visit us and meet some of the team to learn more about the programme, set realistic expectations, and discuss how an Assistance Dog can help with your specific disabilities.

You are then provided a FULL APPLICATION to complete and return.

VETERANS WITH DOGS reserves the right at any point in the process and at our sole discretion to decline an application.

How much does an Assistance Dog from VWD cost?

Nothing. We make no charge to a recipient for the placement of any dog, or for any training services that we provide. However, there are ongoing costs for normal daily care that must be considered as part of owning any dog.

Responsibility for the costs of keeping the dog transfer to the Veteran once placed.

How long is the application process?

Once a Register of Interest is submitted the process can be as short as 6 months or as long as 24 months. If a Veteran is accepted onto the programme he/she then goes into the pool of all clients waiting to be paired with a Dog.

For all clients on the waiting list, the search to find an appropriate dog begins right away. However, this all depends on the individual needs of the client, and the individual qualities of the dogs in training.

Can I train my own dog to qualify as an assistance dog?

Only in exceptional circumstances.

If your dog is deemed suitable through assessment, and shows the correct characteristics and temperament that would be needed to train into becoming a working dog.

Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that the dog you have chosen will be suitable as there are many considerations to be taken into account - a dog for emotional support is not reason enough to be accepted.

You must also be prepared for hard work over a significant period of time. This needs to be a decision that is made very early in a dogs' life - and not as an afterthought.

To be considered for this a dog must be under the age of 2 years and you MUST have been the only owner of the dog.

What exactly do VWD's assistance dogs do?

Our assistance dogs are trained for certain baseline behaviours such as daily routine, waking routines, medication reminders and other activities personal to the Veteran.

They are trained to respond to anxieties displayed by the Veteran in everyday life, and potentially challenging environments (including hyper-vigilance). They also recognise, indicate and interrupt signs of anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares by exhibiting escalation behaviours.

The building up of these behaviours allow the Veteran to break the cycle and regain emotional control by employing cognitive behavioural skills, engaging risk reduction behaviours and so reduce the debilitation of symptomology associated with PTSD.

(Our dogs DO NOT train for any type of security tasks or defensive behaviours, and are not allowed to elicit any type of aggressive behaviour.)

How does the dog help with flashbacks and panic attacks?

A veteran will display certain behaviours just before and during a flashback. The dog is trained to recognise the early signals of these behaviours, interrupt them and redirect the veteran.

How long does it take to train an assistance dog?

The length of time training takes is determined by the Veteran’s needs and the tasks the dog is required to do.

Training can take anything between 12 to 24 months depending on maturity of the dog and the Veteran's lifestyle, family and home environment, their range of physical, psychological and cognitive abilities and their individual personalities.

I already own a dog but would like to apply for one from VWD, is this possible?

Unfortunately not.

We insist that an assistance dog is the one and only dog in the household.

There are too many complications when other dogs are in the same home. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home interfere with the bonding and training process of the Assistance Dog Team.

What types of dogs does VWD use?

Primarily those breeds with a proven background in assistance dog work.

Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two. We also have some Spaniels and Doodles in the programme.

What are the responsibilities of the client who receives a PALS Assistance Dog?

Veterans must be willing and able to follow through with the in-home and public training process.

Veterans must be committed to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the lifetime of the partnership, and to providing for the well-being of the dog (veterinary care, proper grooming, exercise, etc.).

VWD provides ongoing training support for the partnerships.