Lockwood students help train assistance dogs

LOCKWOOD Primary students are helping to train the next generation of autism assistance and therapy dogs.

Righteous Pups Australia teamed up with the school as part of the canine class’s socialisation program after the group moved in next door in January this year.

Every Wednesday and Friday the Righteous Pups bus drops off the eager dogs and their trainers for a day of fun and games.

Lockwood Primary principal Malcolm Hall said a number of students from prep to grade 6 were chosen each week to take part.

Mr Hall said the visits were widely anticipated by the school.

“We have children fighting to get in there,” he joked.

Righteous Pups Australia operations manager Jenny Atkins said spending time in the classroom was great training for the dogs, many of which would be placed with children with autism spectrum disorders and their families.

“The more contact they have with children the better,” she said.

“It also gives them a platform to show off their maturity and the skills they have learnt, as well as allowing us to gauge their development.”

Mr Hall said spending time with the dogs was beneficial to students, fostering leadership skills and helping to promote self-esteem.

The not-for-profit organisation also conducts programs with at-risk teens to help with issues related to learning, anger and depression.

It costs about $29,000 to rear, train and place a dog in a home for an 18-month period.

For more information, visit www.righteouspups.org.au

IN TRAINING: Student Olivia Saunderson, 12, and Pickles. Picture: PETER WEAVING

IN TRAINING: Student Olivia Saunderson, 12, and Pickles. Picture: PETER WEAVING