We are really excited to announce that 2021 will see the launch of our Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs Project. With the help of Service Dogs UK, we are currently developing the details with a plan to launch in the spring.
The aim of this project is to build on local wellbeing dog services where they exists and make dogs accessible to forces that don’t currently use them. We’ll provide national guidance making it easier for forces to introduce a dog as part of their wellbeing provision.
Police around the country are recognising the value of dogs in helping officers and staff with their wellbeing. When dogs are introduced to the workplace, the atmosphere immediately changes and people want to interact with the dog. During this time together, they share oxytocin, a hormone that engenders affection, trust and a sense of security. It helps naturally lower cortisone levels and in doing so reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. For staff in high stress roles and frontline officers these interactive sessions provide light relief from the rigours of their job. The dogs help get people talking, they elicit expressions of feeling and are friendly and non-judgemental.
Wellbeing dog handlers are either mental health first aiders or trained peer supporters who are ideally placed to listen, enable difficult conversations and provide sign-posting to support if required. They can deliver presentations on mental health issues, helping to break down stigma.
Animal assisted intervention has proved highly successful for many years in different guises, this project will provide a real opportunity to use the positivity of interacting with dogs to assist with the wellbeing of our officers and staff.
Why are they an important resource?
Police do a demanding and sometimes dangerous job where they are frequently exposed to daily or weekly trauma. This could be from what they personally encounter or from investigating heinous crimes on children or vulnerable people.
Roads policing officers deal with fatalities daily, control room operators deal with a multitude of difficult situations including domestic abuse, violence, and suicide, the ‘drip feed’ of these incidents can lead to secondary trauma, as can other roles where frequent exposure to trauma, anguish and harm takes a toll.
It is important that we provide the opportunity for our staff to demobilise and defuse from these situations periodically. A visit from a Wellbeing and Trauma Dog offers a ‘light relief’ from the often difficult and emotionally upsetting job we do. When working with a defuser, trauma trained practitioner or mental health first aider, the presence of dog can assist colleagues in sharing their experiences, their friendly interaction can provide emotional support and reduce cortisone levels thereby facilitating conversation enabling memories to be processed in a healthier way.
Dogs are also ‘champions’ in the battle with mental health stigma, they are there to challenge the ‘silent suffering’ and provide education, information and support via their handlers, through presentations, briefings, discussions and sign-posting.
We need your help
We are building small network of current wellbeing dogs from forces around the country to help us to develop this initiative and shape the future of wellbeing and trauma support dogs nationally.
This network will share information and best practice and assist in establishing national guidance for wellbeing and trauma dogs in policing and other emergency services.
If your force already has a wellbeing dog, or you are planning to introduce one, we want you to get involved. Please email us to express your interest with full details of your dog and the work you have been doing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How will the dogs be deployed?
Currently wellbeing dogs and their handlers are booked for visits, presentations, briefings and requested for incidents using local processes in their home force.
Once the National Network of Oscar Kilo Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs is launched, Oscar Kilo will assist in the coordination of the deployment, especially in the event of a large scale incident or event where more than one wellbeing and trauma support dog and specially trained handler is required.