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Partnership with Restart Dog Project

The innovative Restart Dog Project, which has seen young offenders and dogs rehabilitate each other in Stoke-on-Trent has entered a new, exciting phase, partnering with Autism Dogs CIC.

About the project

The Restart Dog Project, the first of its kind in the UK, launched in 2019 and has quickly been gaining attention and praise from all over the world for its innovative approach to providing education in a high security setting. The project is currently teaching the young people who reside at HMYOI Werrington the skills to rehabilitate dogs. The project, led by Leek-based trainer and behaviorist Rachel Trafford, teaches the young people how to train dogs the skills needed to function in a human world. The young people set the dogs up for success by shaping their behavior in a proactive and positive manner, training the dogs in alternative behaviors and reinforcing the desired behaviors that the dogs perform.

Successful partnership

The project has now entered an exciting new phase, partnering with Autism Dogs CIC. Autism Dogs CIC provide

Assistance Dog Programmes for autistic people, training autism Assistance Dogs and educating the handler and their families with the skills and knowledge they will need to make the Assistance Dog partnership successful. An assistance dog is trained to have at least 3 skills or techniques that help to mitigate the challenges of a person’s disability. Autism Dogs CIC’s Assistance Dogs provide autistic people emotional and practical support inday-to-day tasks; the tasks that the dogs can be trained to perform include medication reminders, Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT), item retrieval, self-harminterruption, and anxiety and meltdown responses.

Puppy life skills training

Four puppies, who are destined to be Assistance Dog candidates for Autism Dogs CIC’s Residential Assistance Dog Programme, will receive the puppy life skills training at HMYOI Werrington by the young offenders there. The puppies will receive the basic obedience training from the young people for 10 months untilthey are ready to go on to their next phase of their training and assessments with Autism Dogs CIC.

Positive changes

All dog lovers know that dogs are incredibly special and that the bond between humans and a dog can be incredibly therapeutic. This bond can give humans a sense of purpose and hope for the future. A carefully selected group of Young People at HMYOI Werrington who have demonstrated a willingness to make changes to their own behavior are putting their learnt skills to the test by training the puppies through positive reinforcement techniques, encouraging them to choose positive, appropriate behaviors in a calm and positive environment.

With the safety and welfare of the dogs as paramount importance through the project, the Young People have the opportunity to “Restart” their lives and through the unique bond between humans and man’s best friend, they will not only create a positive and hopeful future for themselves, but will put something back into society by being a significant part of a candidate Assistance Dog’s development, who could go on to change an autistic person’s life for the better.

Foster puppies Cookie, Venus, Lyra, and Shanti
A young offender from HMYOI Werrington with one of the foster puppies
The Restart Dog Project compound at HMYOI Werrington

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