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Brainy Dogs was set up by Helen, our CEO. She got the inspiration from Endal, which is a gentleman who was in the navy, and he got brain injury and he got an assistant dog. Brainy Dogs isn't assistance dogs, but they help people with the emotional side of it. So, it gets people back out into the social network again via dog walking. There are different sides of Brainy Dogs. We have the ones where we train up rescue dogs. We have prisoners help us train the dogs. And we re-home them to people with neurological conditions. We also help people who are struggling with their own dogs. It might be someone that had a dog pre-conditioned, and suddenly they can't do what they used to be able to do. Or, it might just be someone that's got a dog and is actually finding it quite hard. So, what we do is we don't want those dogs to be re-homed so we step in and we just help them.

The other side of it is we have centre dogs, so we have them as a rehab tool here at Headway. And we just help people with either walking. We might help with their speech, weakness. Someone might have a weak side. We get them to groom the dog. And we find that people have a much higher motivation when people are working with the dogs. So, we have prisoners help us train the dogs. If they are deemed successful, they come on to the scheme, so we treat it very much like a job so they have the interview. When we get a dog onto the scheme, I would help sort of assess it start. We'd find out whether it's treat-orientated, toy-orientated. What the dog needs to learn from the owner. And then, I will help the prisoners help train that dog. So, all of the methods are positive reinforcement so we use lots of treats or the toys. And we just get the dogs out and about seeing different things. But, once I've done my initial bit, I hand over to the guys, and it's their responsibility to train the dogs. I'm then there as a backup if anything. They don't understand something or something's going wrong or I just see something that might tweak and make the dog understand a bit easier what they say. They are teaching him.

We make sure that all dogs get neutered. We make sure that they are on the right kind of food, as well. We find ways to get the dog as happy and as healthy as possible. We find that dogs do enjoy to learn as long as you are... You are teaching them in a way that they understand. I tend to have a rule that we teach anything in the office first. I like to say to people it's like asking children to do maths at a cinema when they can't do it by themselves in the first place. We teach the dogs in a small room with small distraction. We then move outside of the building and then we move further and further in the field. So, we asked the dogs to listen to us when there are more distractions around.

So, one of the main things that people suffer with when they have a neurological condition, I find, is confidence. People aren't very, very, confident. They feel that they are different to everybody else. Everybody's looking at them. And you will find people not want to walk down the street because of this. What you find is when they are working with the dog, people stop and talk to the dog and suddenly, it's a positive thing. And people realised that actually people aren't stopping and looking at them because they are different in their eyes, they are stopping and talking to them because they've got a dog. And it... Before long, they realized they've got something in common with other people. They might teach the dog something new. They become proud of that. And the dogs are great icebreakers. And you see people's confidence go up, and up, and up.

Physically, people might not want to have walked out because they were self-conscious. They start walking out with the dog and before you know it they are meeting their tasks that they set themselves because the dogs got to be walked and the dog motivates them to do it. So, before long, they are doing things that they didn't think possible before the dog.

Hope is my dog. She's our main centre dog. She's a four-year-old Cocker Spaniel cross Labrador. But, she's proven to be an absolute star. She's been working with clients since eight weeks old. About 12 weeks old, I had a client who was very upset. I put her on her lap and she sat with her for 20 minutes, which is unheard of with a puppy. But, she loves her work. She gets into work mode. It might have something to do with all the treats she gets, but she loves it. She gets to play games all day long and gets food. And the clients like it cause it's motivation. We often see people saying that they don't think they could get the dog to do anything and they realized it's just about movement of their hand, they are just as capable of doing it as everybody else in the room. And she doesn't judge. She doesn't judge anybody. She'll work for someone in a wheelchair. She'll work for someone that can't talk, absolutely anybody. They're not judgemental.

Because Hope gets a lot of treats with all of the tricks she does, we actually just use dog food, so to her, that's just a positive reinforcement. And then I just alter the food that she gets in the morning and at night depending on how much work she's done during the day. So, she always stays pretty much exactly the same weight. I get a lot out of the job. I get to work with dogs all day long. But, I also get to work with clients. I get to see people improve. I get to see people do things that they never thought they'd be able to do. I also get to work with the prisoners, which is really rewarding, giving them skills that they can take away. And to know that we do something different to everybody else.

When I try and explain my job to people, everyone says that's sounds really interesting, and it is. And every day is different. We have to take every client differently, every dog differently, so it's never the same. And you have to be able to adjust, which is good fun. If people want to find out more about Brainy Dogs, then they just need to go on to the Headway Suffolk website where there's a link to it. And that will have our phone number, email addresses. And that stuff is to anyone that might be interested in being a border, having a dog, or an organization that might want to get involved maybe with the therapy side and the centre dog work.