Autism Assistance Dogs


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These are the puppies Destined to help change families lives.

"we've got children who were non communicative who are now talking, children who were trying to abscond who are now not doing that as much, we are seeing some real changes in families,” says Guide Dog CEO Kate Thiele.

We met these adorable eight week old pooches last month... Now three months old these special pups have entered into their first phase of training to becoming autism assistance dogs.

We checked up on a couple from the litter to see how their schooling is coming along.

Grace & Griffin’s successful career as an autism assistance dog lies in the hands of volunteer puppy raisers.

It's 20 year old Shauna Pepper's second time volunteering for Guide Dogs SA.

"After the first puppy I had it was nice to know you made a difference in someone’s life, that he can go off and really help someone and I wanted to do that again so he can really help someone," says Shauna.

To be a puppy raiser you need to have time, commitment and patience and be able to say goodbye when the time is due.

"I look after it when it’s feeding and just teach it basic obedience and get it used to going out into public places… When we first got her she was a puppy who could nothing and now she can sit, stand, lay down, stay on her matt, really quiet, doesn't bark often," says Shauna.

First time volunteer Nicole Mead juggles part time work and Uni with raising Gracie.

"Being a puppy raiser is something I was always interested in doing, I’ve always loved dogs but never been able to have one so it was a good way to have a dog and have a bit more structure to it," says Nicole.

Susan Clark is one of the senior instructors at Guide Dogs SA.

"We see them on a weekly basis usually every other week they come to group training sessions," says Susan.

The puppies stay with their raisers for 12 months, learning socialisation skills and obedience, testing them in different environments to ensure they don't get distracted by everyday temptations.

"When their coat’s off they can toilet, they can play, they can be a puppy. When it's on you teach them do the obedience, sit and stay and that's when you take them out to the shops. They learn the difference between the two," says Shauna.

"When they come in here we would have hoped they'd learned to be a calm confident dog in all environments whether that be in residential, city, buses or trams," says Susan.

If they adapt well to this training they're ready to move onto their next phase, specific to helping autistic children like little LP

"He's functionally non-verbal, he won't ask for a drink, he won't ask for something to eat, he won't let you know that he needs to go to the toilet, he'll grab you by the hand and lead you to the fridge and you need to work out what he wants," says Paul.

LP and his parents Paul and Chantel are on the waiting list to receive one of these pups.

"He'll run in front of the cars without a second thought, he won't be aware that that's going to hurt him, he isn't aware that the car is going to be there, he just knows he is running, he's in that moment," explains Paul.

"If the child tries to abscond, tries to run off, what we train the dogs to do is drop like an anchor," says Kate.

Guide Dogs CEO Kate Thiele says these puppies not only help to keep autistic children safe but are also a true companion.

To help as many families as they can, Guide Dogs SA need to have enough volunteer puppy raisers willing to give up their time for a good cause.

"If we didn't have them we wouldn't be able to produce as many as we do now and to the level of socialization they need," says Susan.

It costs $25,000 to purchase and train an assistance dog & without Government funding, relies wholly on public donations. Every dollar counts, so if you’d like to help with a donation or find out more about becoming a puppy raiser visit .


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