As we begin training another new group of enthusiastic students on the Paws for Progress course, we thought it was time we provide you with another update on the project’s developments and achievements so far.
We have now completed six cycles of the course at HM YOI Polmont, and the response so far has been hugely positive. Rebecca Leonardi (who instigated the project) is researching the efficacy of Paws for Progress in delivering the intended outcomes (as the focus of her PhD) and it will therefore be subject to a comprehensive review. In the meantime, we are pleased to say that the Visiting Committee and HM Inspectorate of Prisons have been very impressed by our work, as seen in their recent reports (see quote below):
The results of our first year review (described in a previous post) were so impressive that the Scottish Prison Service have continued to increase the resources dedicated to support Paws for Progress. We were provided with dedicated work area for the project at HM YOI Polmont, now known as ‘The Dog Training Workshop’. We were thrilled to welcome a dedicated SPS Officer to the team, who now works with us on a full time basis. Combined with the excellent assistance from our training team throughout our practical training sessions, and the Learning Support provided by Carnegie College, this increased staff support has meant we were able to increase the number of training sessions per week, and increase the opportunities available to participants.
Our students complete an SQA in Personal Development, in which they design a personal project based on their work in the course, and review their progress in relation to individual targets. Paws for Progress developed a partnership with Carnegie College in early 2012, and began contextualising SQA qualifications in Communications, IT and Numeracy within the coursework. These core skills are very important for future employment (as highlighted in the Curriculum for Excellence), and made relevant and enjoyable to the students by being integrated into our work with the dogs. Since then, our students have gained a very impressive number of qualifications; from units in reading, writing, speaking and listening, to units in calculation, graphical information and measuring. Our students now make digital displays to promote the dogs to potential adopters, whilst also gaining an IT qualification as a result of their hard work. Students who continue as peer mentors and assistants can achieve higher levels of qualification. In total, there are now 10 educational qualifications which our students can gain through the dog training course. The students also work towards Course Certification and each successful rehoming of a dog is a recognised achievement for the trainer.
In addition to more practical training time, our students now have more opportunity to develop the dogs’ promotional material, further improving their chances of finding new homes.
Each student is paired with a dog, and their work is focussed towards helping the dog be rehomed. We use kind, fair and effective dog training methods; positive reinforcement techniques are employed to teach the dogs new skills, and our students design individual training plans using reward based methods to achieve their training goals. And thanks to the kind donations received through Tynewater Dog Training’s fundraising event, we were able to purchase additional equipment, including the agility equipment shown, meaning the dogs benefit from even more positive stimulation and activity during their visits. Our thanks also go to Broadleys Veterinary Hospital for their kind donations of equipment for our Training Room.
The dogs show great enthusiasm for their training and make excellent progress, and the affection between dogs and handlers is moving to observe. Handlers work towards APDT Good Companion Awards with their dogs, to help provide practical skills that will benefit both the dog and new owners when they are successfully rehomed.
During the theory training sessions (without the rescue dogs present), participants learn the theory behind dog training and animal care, complete coursework and are visited by guest speakers, to discuss their work with animals and encourage our students to put their skills to use in employment in the future.
We are so grateful to the increasing number of organisations that support us, providing external speakers for course sessions and work experience opportunities for Paws for Progress graduates. These organisations include Blair Drummond Safari Park, Edinburgh Zoo, Broadleys Veterinary Hospital, the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, the Guide Dog Association, the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA), Willows Animal Sanctuary, Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service, Safe Paws and Tynewater Dog Training.
We hope you agree that the project is progressing well for everybody as we begin 2013! So a big thank you from all of us at Paws for Progress for the fantastic support shown to us, and we look forward to sharing more news with you all soon.