Two specially trained dogs have begun work helping patients with dementia – and more are on the way.
Golden retriever Oscar and Labrador Kaspa have been working with their new owners for four months now.
The two dogs underwent 18 months of training, where they were taught to respond to alarms, raise an alarm in emergencies and remind owners to take medicine.
Ken Will, who has suffered from dementia for three years, cannot believe how much difference Kaspa has made to his and his partner, Glenys’, lives.
“Kaspa is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. We can go shopping and the dog will sit with Ken. I don’t need to worry about him. We’re both more relaxed.”
The idea to train guide dogs to help people with dementia was the brainchild of students at Glasgow School of Art, and the project has been taken forward by a collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs Scotland.
In the last few decades, the role of the service dog has expanded, with dogs now assisting with hearing and mobility, as well as with blind people – and of course there has been the exciting development of medical and cancer detection roles.
Helen McCain of Dogs for the Disabled explains how the dogs can be trained, with an example of using a stimulus of a sound to suggest an action to a dog.
“Dogs love routine. They love that predictability. By using that hook, we can then teach the dog to actually remind people by the sound of an alarm to go and get the medication at the allotted time of the day.”