About pawsforprogress

The first prison based dog training programme in the UK, Paws for Progress was introduced to HM YOI Polmont in August 2011, and continues to operate successfully, improving the outcomes of the young people and dogs involved. Paws for Progress was incorporated as a Community Interest Company (CIC) (SC469108), to build on the overwhelming success of the pilot project. Our aim is “to enhance the well-being of people and animals by promoting and supporting, by whatever means, positive and effective interactions between them”.

Exciting new collaboration unveiled with the Scottish Prison Service and the Dementia Dog Project.


Alongside our partners the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and the Dementia Dog Project, today we are delighted to be jointly launching Scotland’s first prison-based assistance dog training programme. The Dementia Dog Project is a partnership between Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for Good.

Based at HMP Castle Huntly, this innovative partnership enables men in custody to complete an introductory dog training and care course before continuing to further develop their skills and help assistance dogs in training.

Brian McKirdy, Acting Governor-in-Charge at HMP Castle Huntly, is very supportive, saying “We are delighted to join with partners Paws for Progress and the Dementia Dog Project.  This innovative project offers us the opportunity to allow offenders to build a non-criminal identity and start the journey of re-integration by helping others less fortunate than themselves.” 

The programme aims to develop employability skills, enhance engagement with education, and improve participants’ well-being, while improving dog welfare more widely and helping provide highly trained assistance dogs to help people living with dementia in the community.

Learning whilst focussing on dogs provides an excellent opportunity to collaborate with Fife College, enabling students to achieve contextualised SQA qualifications through working with the dogs.

Since the start of 2017 the Paws for Progress team, including our fantastic Ambassadogs, have been working with men under custodial care at HMP Castle Huntly, providing a dog training and care programme which covers both practical and theory aspects of dog training.


Paws for Progress Ambassadogs, including Bonnie and Mojo (pictured), play a key role.

Upon completion of the introductory course, participating students have the opportunity to advance their dog knowledge and handling skills through a variety of ways, including working with the Dementia Dog Project on site to help equip assistance dogs in training with the skills they need to help somebody living with dementia.

Rebecca Leonardi, Development Manager at Paws for Progress, explains,“This inspiring project represents a true win-win-win situation. Our students at HMP Castle Huntly are given opportunities to develop their education and skills whilst also helping others.This unleashes the potential of returning citizens to contribute positively to society, and strengthens links with local communities. The welfare of dogs is improved through the education provided in dog training and care. The provision of trained assistance dogs to help transform the lives of people living with dementia means that this project has really wide reaching benefits for all involved.”

This pioneering partnership provides an excellent opportunity to harness the special relationship people have with dogs in order to transform lives.


Willow, dementia assistance dog in training, will go on to do a very special job which changes lives.

Peter Gorbing, CEO of Dogs for Good can see the far reaching benefits,“This really demonstrates positive social outcomes, both for students at HMP Castle Huntly and people in the community who will benefit from the dementia assistance dogs.”

In partnership with the University of Stirling, Paws for Progress will continue to monitor the impact of the project as it develops further over the next few years. Whilst it will be some time before the long term impact can be fully evaluated the initial response has been overwhelmingly positive, with improvements in student outcomes already observed.

Steve*, a student involved in the project, is confident that taking part has had a positive effect: “From start to finish, it’s been perfect for me. It’s been amazing, it’s given me a sense of direction for what I want to do when I get out. I’ve got a plan. My skills have definitely developed a lot more especially patience.  I’ve not got any patience at all; it just kinda clicked when I started doing this.  I’m dealing with things a lot better.”

* Alias name used to project student’s identity.


Dementia assistance dogs in training Uno, Webb and Willow (L to R) have been taking part in training at HMP Castle Huntly since January 2017.

The potential for the future is huge, with the Dementia Dog Project planning to place a further eight dementia assistance dogs in Scotland over the next 2 years. The students who are trained and supported by Paws for Progress at HMP Castle Huntly will play a key role in enabling this goal to be met.

Richard Tuckley, Chair of the Board of Directors of Paws for Progress CIC, summarises, “It is an amazing privilege to be involved on the frontiers of human-animal interaction.  Here is a great example of effective collaboration between partners to improve the welfare of people and dogs. The word “potential” is inescapable.  This project has already demonstrated its positive effect in so many areas but we know there is more to discover on this exciting journey.” 


The team on site at HMP Castle Huntly. From L to R: Assistance dog Willow, Fiona Corner (Dementia Dog Project), Rebecca Leonardi (Paws for Progress), Ambassadogs Karma, Bonnie and Mojo, Kerry Gough (Dementia Dog Project), and assistance dog Uno.






Reflecting on 2016 and welcoming the start to 2017 with Paws for Progress…

We had a whirlwind few months at the end of 2016, followed by some very welcome quiet time over the holidays for our team and the dogs to relax for a while. It’s great to be getting busy again now though, with lots of new students joining us this January, and it’s lovely to see lots of familiar faces too, as our graduate students play a key role by returning to help on the services.

Molly from Staffie Smiles Rescue completed our rescue dog training programme just before Christmas, and stayed with us over the festive season as she will continue developing her skills further with us this year. Here she is enjoying a lovely sunny winter walk over the holidays – who can resist this gorgeous face?! We hope Molly will find her forever home soon, she is a truly lovely girl.


Molly from Staffie Smiles Rescue is a lovely girl who is still looking for her forever home!

Autumn 2016 kicked off with a busy start  with our annual conference in October. This year we were focusing on how Human Animal Interactions can enhance learning and health, and we had a line up of fantastic speakers from organisations such as Dogs for Good, Turn About Pegasus, IAHAIO, and Medical Detection Dogs. We were also delighted to share exclusive insights into our work at Paws for Progress with our delegates, including a practical session with our team of Paws Ambassadogs!

The enthusiasm and energy of all of our delegates helped to make the event a huge success once again. Here is what some of them had to say:

“A very inspiring conference. Very interesting, good networking opportunities. Fantastic presentations – amazing humans and dogs”

“Thank you for a great day on an interesting and important topic! Your dogs are gorgeous”

“A really inspiring mix of people and stories in the room! Hello career change

 Discussions and talks explored the many different ways and settings in which animals can have a really positive impact on people young and old, and throughout there was a theme of ensuring that the interactions were beneficial and  enjoyable for the animals tooburns-by-your-side-logo-final!

Burns Logo with strapline 2015




We are so grateful to our fantastic event sponsors for their generous support of the event, Burns Pet Nutrition. It was wonderful to hear about the fantastic work they are doing in Wales with their school reading dog project “Burns By Your Side“.

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In October we were also delighted to welcome our new Community Instructor, Kirsty, and her team of dogs! We are very grateful to BBC Children in Need for funding this key role for the next 3 years, enabling us to provide tailored Human Animal Interaction services to more children and young people in the community. See our Paws in the Community page to find out more about this exciting area of work!


Paws Ambassadogs – Mojo, Bug, Jack, Bonnie, Ellie and Dan – having fun together on their lunchtime walk. All great characters, who thoroughly enjoy their involvement in helping us teach children and young people all about dogs!


We have also been working on more exciting new developments at Paws for Progress, as we continue to expand our services for women in custody and also prepare to pilot a new service at HMP Castle Huntly. We look forward to sharing more details about both of these projects with you soon.

We finished the year with a fantastic event,  the Doggy Christmas Market fundraiser for Paws for Progress at Safe Paws! Hosted by Safe Paws, Broadleys Veterinary Hospital & Paws for Progress, Stirling’s first Doggy Christmas Market included lots of fabulous festive doggy stalls, a visit from Santa Paws, a fun dog show, supervised dog play parks, dancing with dogs performances, a scent work demonstration, and lots more!

It was a fabulous day, enjoyed by humans and dogs alike, and we are very grateful to all involved. We are thrilled with the success of this event, which raised over £1500 for Paws for Progress – this will make a big difference, allowing us to help improve the lives of more people and animals through our services. We are looking forward to working with our co-hosts to organise another Doggy Christmas Market this year – our special thanks to Safe Paws and Broadleys Vets for making this possible.


January 2017 – NOW RECRUITING

We are extremely excited to be able to offer a unique and incredible opportunity for a talented and enthusiastic individual to join our team.

A vacancy has become available for the position of Course Instructor, an essential role facilitating our prison based rescue dog training programme at HM YOI Polmont.

If you’re passionate about helping people and animals and are looking for an exciting and rewarding role in an innovative and inspiring organisation, we would love to hear from you.

The application closing date is Friday 27th January 2017. To find out more about the role and apply please go to our vacancy page at: https://pawsforprogress.com/vacancies/


Our thanks to everyone for supporting Paws for Progress, we look forward to sharing more news with you soon.



So much Pawsitive news to share!

Here at Paws for Progress, we have a LOT of exciting news to share… Read on to find out more about latest developments at Paws for Progress, the benefits of Human Animal Interactions, and ways in which you can get involved!


Interested in joining the Paws team?

DSCN3164There is currently a unique opportunity to join our staff team through the rewarding role of Community Officer, generously funded for the coming 3 years by BBC Children In Need.


Over the next three years, this funding will allow Paws for Progress to employ a full-time Community Officer to deliver Unleashing Potential, a project matching trained dogs with young people who often find social situations challenging. Building on the success of a
pilot programme launched last year, the group will engage under 18s with additional support needs (including those with ADHD, dyspraxia and autism), in positive activities with dogs to enhance social contact, improve communication skills and increase engagement with education.

DSCN2990At the project, participants learn about dog behaviour, care and positive reinforcement training. Each session includes a mix of theory and practice, and in addition to working individually with their dogs, youngsters will have a chance to work in groups with their peers, all of which creates multiple opportunities for learning. The service is also youth-led, which means that that the project is constantly learning from its participants and responding to their individual needs. Young people benefit from an improved attitude toward education and a real boost to their confidence.  DSCN3162

Speaking of the new funding Rebecca Leonardi, the Development Manager at Paws for Progress, said: “Many of the young people who come to our project have additional behavioural, emotional or social needs and this can affect how they interact in different environments. In some cases, even engaging in education can be challenging. At Paws for Progress we feel passionate about the benefits of human – animal interaction. You can clearly see the change in our young people when they come into contact with the dogs – they become more relaxed, happier and therefore receptive to new experiences. With this funding from BBC Children in Need we can work to reach even more young people, making a positive difference to their lives.”

DSCN3040Our community services for children and young people have been hugely successful and we are delighted to be able to delegate a full-time member of staff to continue this excellent work.


The application deadline is this Friday (26th August), find out more and apply online here.




Our good friends at Dogs for Good are also recruiting in Scotland!

Follow the links to find our more about the roles of Assistance Dog Instructor or Project Manager.



Find out more about Human Animal Interactions at our conference

Following our very successful debut conference in 2015, we have listened to feedback and worked to further build upon your areas of interest to provide another inspiring and enjoyable conference this Autumn.


“Huge thanks for an exceptionally fascinating, enjoyable & often moving conference.”

“This was genuinely the best conference I have ever attended, so inspiring.”

We invite you to join us on the 14th and 15th October 2016 at the Stirling Court Hotel to explore how interacting with animals can be beneficial for enhancing learning and health, and to find out about the excellent and innovative services provided across the UK.

There will be plenty of opportunities to network, and also the prospect of sharing your own work through table displays and / or a poster display outlining your own research in this area.

VHAI event.JPGWe recommend that anyone who is interested, either on a professional or personal level, in learning about the health, social, educational or rehabilitative benefits growing from human animal interactions would benefit from attending.

We will also be exploring key considerations for designing and evaluating HAI services, and providing some fun and interactive demonstrations for some added inspiration!

Don’t miss out on our discounted early bird tickets, available until the 31st August at the online shop. More information available on our event page.



Pioneering services for women in custody

This year we have been busy piloting and developing services for women in custody, an exciting new area of work for us which is going extremely well.DSCN3093

Following on from the success of Paws at HM YOI Polmont, there has been great interest in our services from women in custody. Our user led approach is ideal for targeting their unique and often complex needs.Since early 2016 we have been engaging with young women and adults across the establishment, including some of the most vulnerable women in the mental health unit.

We provide a structured course about dog training and care, facilitating enjoyable activities with dogs. The service aims to enhance mood of participants, enrich social skills and relationships with staff / peers, develop an understanding of dogs and animal care and help participants engage positively in education. Our students also develop skills relevant for employment and grow in confidence, impacting their well-being positively.13090353_10154032180071405_1116603273_n

We also provide drop in weekly sessions within the mental health unit, providing opportunities to interact positively with our team of trained dogs, in an animal assisted activity programme. These sessions have maximum flexibility and are responsive to the women’s interests and needs on each individual visit.

We initially piloted the service with young women at HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, providing a short programme that facilitated enjoyable activities with the Paws for Progress team of trained dogs.  The students taking part enjoyed the positive and supportive environment created through interacting with the dogs,  having the opportunity to learn about dog training and care whilst developing their own skills.

In response to the enthusiastic feedback we received from our students, we have now widened the course to make it available to women across the institution, and extended the opportunities available to women attending the structured course. Both the structured course and the drop in service have continued to enjoy great success with both the students and dogs responding very positively to the opportunities and very much enjoying working together.

Here is some of the wonderful feedback we have received so far:

“The animals keep me calm and focused.”
“Having the dogs here cheers everyone up!”
“I think it’s been really beneficial, it’s something really good and different for the block. It gives us something positive to do…”
“It’s good for your mental health too, being with the dogs.”
“It means such a lot to us, having an opportunity to be with the dogs.”
“It’s been fantastic, it’s been amazing.”
“It’s really helped my confidence, and helped me feel able to engage with other services too.”  Paws Participants, HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, 2016bonbon

“Paws for Progress provide HMP and YOI Cornton Vale with an excellent and flexible service. Interacting with the dogs and Paws for Progress staff became hugely important to the women. There were obvious and direct benefits to the women participating in the programmes. They increased their social interactions with each other and with staff. Their self-confidence increased as did their patience, and most importantly it gave them something to look forward to and treasure. Paws for Progress has been a great success within the prison and is a service that clearly has a very positive impact on all who use it.”
SPS Residential Unit Manager, HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, 2016.

Below is an example of the lovely written work that the students have chosen to complete outside of the practical sessions, a tribute to how dedicated and enthusiastic they are about the service.

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We look forward to providing more updates as these services for women develop further.

Play a valuable role in our successful fundraising campaign!

We need your help to support dogs taking part in our prison based rescue dog training programme. We’re currently working with many fantastic dog rescue organisations, supporting one another to help to prepare the dogs for being successfully rehomed.

Lacey 1

Lacey from Staffie Smiles Rescue, seeking a new home.

You can have a direct and valuable impact by donating to help towards the costs of providing our services, that we can then use to contribute towards the costs of kennelling fees for the fantastic rescues we are working with.

The easiest way of doing this is through Local Giving, where you can give a one off or monthly donation.  A £10 monthly donation significantly contributes towards the costs of one dog taking part for 2 days of the course.


Charlie from The Underheugh Ark,  seeking a new home.

We would also love to see you in person at our fundraising events! We’re currently planning several seasonal quiz nights in both Stirling and Edinburgh, beginning with a Halloween themed quiz this October. More details coming soon.

Your next chance to join us will be on the 2nd September, where we will be pitching at Stirling Soup alongside 5 other innovative local organisations. You, the audience, will choose which organisation will be taking home the pot of donations! It would be great to see you there for this fun and friendly evening.

Thank you so much for your support, we are delighted that thanks to our dedicated supporters we have raised more than £3,500 through fundraising this year which has all gone towards providing our tailored Human Animal Interaction services, what a fantastic figure to have raised so far!

That’s all from us for now, we’ll be keeping you updated through social media over the coming months and look forward to sharing a winter warmer full of our latest good news (and more exciting new developments) later this year!

Happy 2 Year Anniversary!

Welcome to the first Paws for Progress CIC blogpost of 2016


We’re delighted that at Paws for Progress we have now reached our two year anniversary as a registered Community Interest Company! What a lot we have achieved in a short space of time. We hope that you enjoy reading about what we have been up to over the last year as we reflect on our successes, and we are also eager to share details about our new initiatives which are under development as the organisation evolves.
As always we remain hugely grateful to all of our generous funders and all the fantastic organisations who support us, and enable us to continue providing unique services to benefit children, young people and animals in need of support.

Over the last year, the organisation has continued to develop and grow in several innovative new directions. Our flagship service at HM YOI Polmont, where young offenders and rescue dogs work together towards better futures, continues to thrive and evolve, and we have some exciting news regarding the evaluation, demonstrating the positive impact that this service has.

Meanwhile, our community based services, which we started delivering in 2015, have been gaining momentum and receiving much interest. We are now working with a range of partners in the community, helping to change the lives of children and young people by engaging them in Human Animal Interaction services with our talented team of dogs. We take great pleasure in sharing our success stories so far in this spring newsletter.

Thank you all for your continued support and interest, our partners, supporters and volunteers play a hugely important role within the organisation and you really do make all the difference to the young people and animals we work with.


Paws at Polmont

We’d like to reflect on the excellent year we had in 2015. We had a great start to the year, with the renovation of our training area at HM YOI Polmont, the donation of new equipment for the rescue dogs and the purchase of a new vehicle for transporting the rescue dogs. Early in 2015 we also welcomed an additional member of full-time staff to the team in the new role of Training Instructor, who plays a key role supporting the dogs and students on the course.

We have also been developing fantastic relationships with a range of local dog rescue organisations, many of which are volunteer led, to help improve the behaviour and welfare of dogs in Scotland. Find out more about the dogs currently taking part in the training programme on our Facebook page.

Research evaluation

We are delighted that the evaluation of our flagship rescue dog training programme at HM YOI Polmont has now been completed! We will be disseminating the thesis more widely this year through a range of avenues including journal articles and engagement with the media.

We will be announcing which journals will be featuring articles from the evaluation on our website over the coming months, and will be able to share the full details following release of the publications. The key findings demonstrate evidence that the programme is very successful in meeting its aims, which are to:

a) improve behaviour (in the institutional environment and in the long term)

b) increase educational engagement (attitudes to learning, progress and achievements)

c) Develop employability skills (social competencies; emotional management; ability to work independently and as part of a team; responsibility and decision making; problem solving; working towards targets and goals)

d) Enhance well-being (motivation, self-efficacy and positive pro-social focus)

The comprehensive analyses of dog behaviour and welfare pre and post programme participation showed improvements in both, with effects enduring back in the shelter kennel environment. Almost all participating dogs were successfully rehomed.

You can contact us at info@pawsforprogress.co.uk to be added to our mailing list for updates regarding the publication of research focusing on our services.



Community services

“I honestly believe that if I had been involved in Paws for Progress before coming to prison, I would not be here now.” Student, Paws at Polmont

“This is better than anything I have done… This group has helped me get over my fear of dogs and helped me to develop my skills in sharing and turn taking. The adults in the group have made me feel safe and listened to.” Student, Paws at Barnardo’s 2015.

Following on from the success of our prison based rescue dog training programme we are now providing services for children and young people (aged 8-17)  in the community, working with multiple partners including Barnardo’s Scotland and Mariner Support Service. There is great potential for our services in a preventative setting, working with school and community groups, to provide valuable opportunities for Animal Assisted Education and positive Human Animal Interactions.

The response to the services have been extremely positive, with both the young people and their support workers seeing positive change in our students’ social skills, well-being, attitude to education and belief in their own abilities.

Key to the success of our community services is our user led approach; each programme is carefully tailored to meet the unique needs of the young people taking part. We are dedicated to listening and responding to feedback from the young people and children we work with, meaning our services are constantly developing to ensure they are as effective as possible.

Our services involve a team of trained staff dogs, who all enjoy interacting with children and young people. In a mix of practical and theory work, the students learn about a range of dog focussed topics and participate in fun interactive activities with the dogs. These projects typically involve sessions one afternoon a week over 6 weeks for a group of 6-8 young people. Additionally, we provide opportunities for our students to continue engaging in our services. Find out more about our community services here.


Further updates

New developments

In addition to our services in the community we are in the early stages of developing a range of new prison based services to provide support and training for both female offenders and long term prisoners. We have been piloting services at HMP and YOI Cornton Vale since February, to which the response has been very positive. We have also begun delivering a series of seminar evenings at HMP Open Estate – Castle Huntly for prisoners, staff and members of the public, which we launched with a very successful Dog First Aid evening at the end of 2015.

There is huge potential for developing services which will benefit not only the service users but also dogs and members of the community. We look forward to seeing what we can achieve through expanding our partnership working with the Scottish Prison Service.

Events at Paws

In 2015 we launched our first ticketed events. In September we set the standard high at our first conference, “The Value of Human Animal Interactions“, which took place over 2 days at the University of Stirling and was kindly sponsored by Blair Drummond Safari Park.

Sign up to receive details on our events in 2016  at info@pawsforprogress.co.uk

Getting involved and  Fundraising

Our volunteers and supporters are a key part of the community we have built at Paws for Progress. If you would like to get involved in our community fundraising team or contribute in other ways then please see our supporters page here. We look forward to hearing from you!

Our fundraising for 2016 has got off to an excellent start with several excellent initiatives. This includes a hugely successful Live Music Night which was hosted by the University Of Stirling Live Music Society in March and raised £532, and a fantastic seminar evening “In Pain, Not Disobedient Nor Nasty” with guest speaker Professor Daniel Mills, which was hosted by Tynewater Dog Training and raised £1,200!

A huge thank you to all who have been involved in the wonderful fundraising events so far this year. To see what exciting fundraising events are coming up, check our events page here.

We look forward to updating you on our exciting service developments, events and other news soon. We can already tell that 2016 is going to be a great year for the organisation, and we are so grateful to all of our partners, funders and supporters who make it possible for us to continue improving the lives of more young people and animals. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up to date with our news until next time!

October update (meet our K9 supporters!)

Welcome to the Paws for Progress October update!

We’ll soon have a full seasonal update for you, but in the meantime we would like to fill you in with our latest news…

Paws at HM YOI Polmont

We have now begun our 3rd cycle of the course this year, which means that our human and canine students will soon be making one another’s acquaintance, building unique partnerships and developing valuable skills. We look forward to keeping you updated on how they’re all getting on. Here are a few sneak peeks of some of the dogs who will be taking part….


Paws in the community

Our new community services for children and young people have really taken off over the last few months. Check out our new webpage here to find out more.

media 004bonniehurry


Fundraising / how you can get involved

We’ve been very fortunate to have lots of supporters getting in touch asking how they can get involved and help Paws for Progress. As a response to this we have now put together a new webpage detailing several different ways in which you can get involved and support us further. Please click here to view the page.

We’d particularly like to draw your attention to our current fundraising campaign through Local Giving, where you can now make donations online to support Paws for Progress, helping to improve the lives of people and animals in need. Any help donating or spreading the word about this campaign would be hugely appreciated. We’re raising money to contribute to the costs of having rescue dogs on our Polmont course, so any proceeds will be well spent.

Paws K9 Supporters

A huge thank you to everyone who has sent in photographs of their lovely dogs wearing Paws bandanas, we love receiving them! We hope you enjoy meeting some of our Paws K9 supporters in the slideshow below, and please be sure to keep the photos coming 🙂

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That’s all for now folks, thank you as always for being wonderful supporters and we look forward to giving you a more in-depth update soon!

The Value of Human Animal Interactions; a huge success

Wow! What an amazing experience. We have been completely blown away by the positive response to our event ‘The Value of Human Animal Interactions’ which took place last weekend. Thank you to absolutely EVERYONE involved, from our fantastic speakers who provided a valuable insight into the work going on in this field across the country, our wonderful guests who we were delighted to have the opportunity to connect with, our generous sponsors Blair Drummond Safari Park, our supporters KONG and last but not least the team of Paws staff and volunteers who have worked hard over the last few months preparing for the event. We are thrilled to learn that everyone enjoyed the event as much as we did, and that you all found it a valuable and inspiring experience.


The energy, passion and enthusiasm  from everyone involved was absolutely phenomenal. We really are delighted to have had the opportunity to bring together so many fantastic people from all over the country. From speaking to our guests, it is clear that there is a great desire for more opportunities to network and collaborate with others working in the field of Human Animal Interactions. There are several excellent organisations working to provide such opportunities to connect, such as People & Animals whose next meeting is in October 2015. Given the hugely positive reaction to our Paws for Progress event, we hope that Value HAI was the first of many events we will have the pleasure of hosting.


We really appreciate the amazing feedback we have had from our guests, as this is key to helping us shape our future events. See the bottom of this post for a snapshot of the feedback so far! If you attended the event and didn’t have the opportunity to give us some feedback, we would greatly appreciate it if you could follow the link here and download our event feedback form which can then be emailed to us at info@pawsforprogress.co.uk.

Our special friendsWe’d like to take the opportunity to give you an overview of the event and the excellent speakers who attended to share their knowledge, experience and details regarding the organisations they are involved in. Click on the links to find out more about each organisation.


“This was genuinely the best conference I have ever attended, so inspiring and right in line with my interests and aspirations.”


The Value of Human Animal Interactions: Event Summary

We were very pleased that many delegates provided displays and stands to share the work of the organisations they were representing. Throughout the two days there were many opportunities to network among the stands, providing a fantastic opportunity for guests to connect and find out more about other organisations. Each day, the morning talks were opened by a warm welcome from Richard Tuckley, Chair of the Board of Directors at Paws for Progress CIC.

Friday 18th September, 2015.

On Friday, Rebecca Leonardi (Paws for Progress) shared exclusive insights into the paneldevelopment of the Paws at HM YOI Polmont programme where we have been very successfully working with young offenders and rescue dogs for over four years. In addition to exploring how this programme developed, Rebecca highlighted features which are integral to the successful development of HAI programmes in general.

We were thrilled to welcome Elizabeth Ormerod as a guest speaker on behalf of IAHAIO as she has been a pioneer in this field for many years and has always been a huge support to us at Paws for Progress. Liz gave a valuable insight into critical aspects of animal welfare that we should consider when delivering animal assisted interventions, and discussed the importance of carefully matching the suitability of each individual animal’s characteristics (including species, breed, temperament and energy requirements) to specific programmes to better enhance their welfare and the well-being of the people interacting with them.

“I liked the honest, personal experiences that presenters shared with us during the presentations.”

Our special friends close up
Belinda Johnston from Our Special Friends then gave an excellent presentation sharing the work that she and her team of volunteers are carrying out through OSF, a young charity which has huge potential for enhancing the well-being of vulnerable people. She highlighted the importance of considering the impact of involvement in Animal Assisted Activities for all involved, not only the clients and animals but also the volunteers. Belinda highlighted the importance of working collaboratively with multiple organisations to enhance one another’s work, a theme which was reiterated throughout the event.
The afternoon sessions consisted of a selection of workshops and talks facilitated by speakers from a range of impressive organisations based throughout the UK.
On the Friday afternoon, Selina Gibsone shared some of the excellent work which is being carried out by Dogs for the Disabled. It was brilliant to hear how Dogs for the Disabled have now bSelinaranched out through their “Community Dog” project to work with young people in schools. In part to reflect their work with a wider range of people, Dogs for the Disabled is being rebranded and will soon become Dogs for Good. Selina’s workshop also provided the opportunity for delegates to get involved and go back to the drawing board when designing a new Animal Assisted Intervention, giving us the chance to discuss the key first steps when developing an AAI and to consider the challenges we may face.

“This is the first Human Animal Interaction event I have attended after dozens of one or the other. Having set up a Human Animal Interaction organisation it was refreshing & enlightening to meet others in the field & learn about other organisations work.”

Tracie Faa-Thompson, from Turn About Pegasus, delivered a fascinating workshop exploring how Animal Assisted Play Therapy can achieve positive outcomes for disadvantaged and disengaged young people. In an inspiring discussion,Tracie shared how the activities that she delivers through Turn About Pegasus develop young people’s caring skills and empathy, improve communication and interpersonal relationships, and improve their confidence. In the absence of her skilled team of equine co-therapists, Tracie gave us an opportunity to experience a communication task using bananas as a substitute, which was both thought provoking and a lot of fun!

We were particularly pleased to have a representative from our generous sponsors, Blair Drummond Safari Park, attending as a guest speaker. Craig Holmes, head of Barbary Macaques and Tigers at the local Safari Park, looked at Human Animal blair drummond logoInteractions in a different area by discussing the welfare of the captive animals he works with. This provided a valuable insight into the benefits of training for exotic animals for their welfare, health and enrichment. Craig also explained the importance of connecting the visitors and animals in order to raise awareness and improve the future of both wild and captive exotic animals. There is some very exciting and pioneering training going on at Blair Drummond, and Craig and his team are clearly dedicated and passionate about enhancing the welfare of the animals they care for.

“A well organised event that introduced and explored a number of new topics for me. You did the topic of Human Animal Interactions justice.”
Kerri Bee shared details of the innovative work of  SPPOT, Supporting People and Pets through Opportunity and Training, a unique social enterprise in Wales. SPPOT brings the needs of people together with the needs of dogs, through the provision KerriAshaof quality-driven training, volunteering opportunities, services and events. Kerri explained how training courses for people are at the core of their work; SPPOT specialise in training people who have long term illnesses, disabilities or other disadvantages as Dog Walkers, Home Boarders and Pet Sitters, whilst also benefiting dogs too, by promoting kind, effective methods of training and handling and providing skilled volunteers to help dogs in the community. It was fantastic to hear about such an excellent initiative which benefits all involved.
 After a busy day, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend a relaxed evening socialising and networking further over dinner. From the feedback our guests have provided, one of the key benefits of attending the event was the networking, and the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Another recurring theme throughout the event was the importance of engaging in collaborative working, and spending time together sharing our experiences is key to creating the opportunity to connect and collaborate.
 “A wonderful event and fantastic opportunity for networking. It was a great honour to be a guest speaker.”

Saturday 19th September

The incredible positivity and enthusiasm from the first day of the event continued into the second. Our speakers and delegates  did a phenomenal job once again, starting on the Saturday with a talk from Rebecca Leonardi from Paws for Progress.
This time, Rebecca focused on the outcomes of the evaluation of Paws for Progress at HM YOI Polmont. This was an exclusive opportunity to share the overwhelmingly positive impact that this prison based programme for young people and rescue dogs has for all parties involved.
 “Huge thanks to Paws for Progress for an exceptionally fascinating, enjoyable & often moving conference. Congratulations on the amazing evaluation results.”
The research focus continued on the Saturday morning as Rebecca’s description of the evaluation of Paws for Progress was followed by a talk by Joanne Williams, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. Jo discussed
the importance of increasing our focus on the relationship between children and animals, which sadly is often neglected as an area of research. Jo shared how Joanne WIlliamsresearch and practise can be effectively integrated, describing her experiences collaborating together with a team of researchers and partnering organisations to educate children and young people to promote positive Human Animal Interactions and enhance animal welfare. Research clearly pays a critical role, enabling us to better understand and enhance relationships between children and animals.
Jo’s work linked in extremely well with that of our next speaker, Lesley Winton, who paw-in-handshared with us the incredible work that is being carried out in Scotland through the Fostering Compassion programme. The programme works with cared for children and animals to engage children positively with animals and help to reverse the negative cycle of abuse they may have suffered. Hearing about the impact this work is having on young people was emotional at times, but overwhelmingly inspiring. Once again, the importance of connecting and collaborating with other organisations was highlighted, which was promptly followed by more networking over lunch.
 “You have all inspired me in the topic of Human Animal Interactions.” 
Our afternoon workshops were again facilitated by a wide range of organisations, giving access to the wealth of different work which is being carried out across the UK.
Jeni Lennox from Dementia Dog delivered a beautiful presentation about this exciting young project which is based in Scotland and was developed collaboratively by Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled. She shared the incredible work that the Dementia Dog team are doing to support people liDementia Dogving with Dementia and their families, whether that be through practical, emotional or social support. The way in which the dogs are able to contribute to all these different forms of support in an unparalleled fashion was fascinating to hear about, and sparked an interesting discussion on the positive support that pet dogs, even those who are not trained as support dogs, provide their owners.

Katie Bristow, from People & Animals delivered a fascinating workshop exploring how Katie Bristow (2)Animal Assisted Interventions can be utilised to help improve a wide range of outcomes. Katie discussed how activities and intervention goals can be designed to target individual needs, whilst also emphasising the importance of remaining flexible and responsive, and considering what the broader effects and benefits may be. Through interactive tasks, our guests explored different scenarios and discussed how interacting with animals and integrating activities with the individual client’s interests can really maximise the benefits for those involved.

“Venue was great, organisation excellent,  thank you so much for a brilliant event.”


The final workshops on the Saturday continued to provide valuable insights into the Value of Human Animal Interactions in different contexts.
Ruby Shorrock, founder of the Trusty Paws Clinic which provides free vet treatment for homeless peoples’s dogs, ran a thought provoking workshop which considered attitudes towards homeless people who own dogs, Ruby featureand the impact of homelessness on both parties. Discussions explored the incredible bond created by living in such close proximity with an animal, providing constant companionship to each other, whilst also highlighting the need to provide more support for homeless people who own dogs, such as more dog friendly hostels and opportunities to access veterinary treatment. This workshop was eye-opening, and it was wonderful to hear about the excellent work that has been carried out at the Trusty Paws Clinic since it was founded last year.
Marion Janner, who set up the charity Star Wards to provide improved experiences for mental health patients and staff, gave a moving testimonial of what life is like for sleepy buddysomeone with mental illness, and the positive impact that her support dog Buddy has had through providing non-judgemental companionship and support. The close partnership between Marion and Buddy was a delight to see, and it was wonderful to hear from the perspective of someone who has made an active change to help others who are also struggling from mental illness.


msc students“A wonderful opportunity.”

“This was the best conference ever (and I have been to dozens and dozens in the past), thank you.” 

“It was mind-blowing, I will be coming again.”

“Excellent conference – superb. Cutting edge presentations.” 

       “Well structured, friendly and excellent  opportunity for networking.”


Less than two weeks until ‘The Value of Human Animal Interactions’!

event 4

We are thrilled to announce that Blair Dummond Safari Park will be our headline sponsor at our upcoming event, ‘The Value of Human Animal Interactions‘.

This will be a truly amazing event, in which we will consider the value of positive interactions between people and animals, exploring the mutually beneficial effects of these connections. With less than two weeks to go, there are still some spaces remaining, so don’t miss out – book your ticket now!


We have been updating our ‘Value of Human Animal Interactions’ event page and releasing further details of the exciting schedule planned for this two day event.This includes speaker profiles and details of the fantastic workshops we have lined up, as well as details of the social events in the evening.

We will continue to release further details here as we approach the event. You can also keep up to date on the latest news about the event via the Value of Human Animal Interactions event page on Facebook, or via Paws for Progress on Facebook or Twitter.

Blair Drummond Safari Park

We are very grateful for the support of our main sponsor, Blair Drummond Safari Park, who do excellent work to promote animal welfare and educate and inspire young people. Blair Drummond Safari Park will also be represented in our interactive workshops, showcasing their valuable contribution to animal welfare and education.

We are thrilled to have such support for this event, with so many wonderful organisations represented across the two days, sharing best practise and expertise in Human Animal Interactions and showcasing the innovative and inspiring work happening here in the UK. This event also provides an exclusive opportunity to gain an in depth understanding of Paws for Progress development and the results of the evaluation of the first prison based dog training programme in the UK.

Very soon, we will be welcoming our delegates to the stunning venue at the Stirling Court Hotel and sharing this brilliant experience with you all. Please contact us for any further information about the event; we look forward to seeing you there soon!