The Defence Community Dog program provides dogs trained to Assistance Dog level, to serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who need support to deal with injuries and illnesses including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since the program commenced, over 45 dogs have been given to Veterans and are proving to be a valuable part of their rehabilitation program.
Every dog in the program is rescued from a pound or shelter, but to be selected the dog must pass a strict temperament assessment before being accepted into the program. Each dog is then trained specifically to assist Veterans coping with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Once a dog has their training, they are matched with a suitable Veteran. Most of the dogs in the program take approximately nine (9) months or at least 250 hours of professional dog training to reach Assistance Dog level.
Successful Veterans attend a comprehensive handover program where they spend at least a week working with the trainers and program staff, learning how to correctly handle, command and care for their new service dogs. This also affords the veterans an opportunity to gradually bond with their dog whilst under the constant supervision of a professional dog trainer. The handover is then reinforced through on-going dog training at the veteran’s local dog training group until the dog qualifies as an Assistance Dog by passing their Public Access Test. Follow up and support is provided throughout this period.
The dogs in the program are trained by inmates at the Bathurst Correctional Centre, NSW and the Numinbah Correctional Centre, Qld under the guidance of professional dog trainers. The dog training program is overseen by one of Australia’s leading dog trainers, Steve Austin.