How Empower Helps the Community
Due to the broad range of disabilities both physical and mental, our assistance dogs are either psychologically profiled and assessed if acquired from outside our own program as per accessing breeders with great bloodstock with all the health, hygiene and physical attributes that we require. We have purposely built a breeding program that accesses the best bloodstock from around the world for our program’s longevity and success. All of these dogs are raised in accordance to our best practices to ensure we have the greatest possibility of developing the best candidate dogs whom are individually trained to the needs of each specific handler and their individual environments and disabilities.
Our Assistance dogs have been trained to do some of the following basics and combinations: seizure response, minor balance skills, picking up or retrieving dropped or wanted items such as pill bottles or accidentally dropped things such as carkeys, wallets, glasses, mobile phones, cutlery, clothing, bags, opening and closing doors for entry and exiting and being able to gain objects out of cupboards, fridges, washing machines and dryers, pushing traffic lights and lift buttons or even emergency response alarms for health or help, turning lights on and off, some help with dressing or undressing, get help and so much more! These activities are known as ‘task work’ and can form part of their government certification when they are trained to do them correctly to enhance their handler’s quality of life and independence or the very important public interaction.
By the time these dogs have been through puppy raising and have progressed from puppyhood to their advanced training, they are exposed to everything that they could encounter throughout their exciting life as a service dog helping their chosen partner. Many of our handlers are professional people who still encounter all sections of the community and our dogs must be more than capable of loving the challenge and the change that everyday life can bring to them ensuring that environmental enrichment is always a part of their life. These dogs have to be comfortable with accessing all forms of public transport from taxi’s, buses, trains, trams, ferries and boats as well as air travel and all of these aforementioned activities have to be conditioned for the dog so that it is second nature for them to be comfortable in any setting.
It is a requirement under the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009 that Assistance Dogs do at least 3 trained tasks for their handlers. Emotional support is not recognised as a task under the Act at the moment, rather it is something that a handler experiences from the relationship with their dog. This is not to say that emotional support isn’t very important for handlers, however when we train tasks for handlers, the tasks must be easy to recognise and replicatable when required and performed on cue with desire for the handler in a variety of environments.
From within our breeding program, we have the ability to breed purposely bred, raised and trained Guide dogs that are trained to enhance mobility and independence for their handler by allowing movement throughout the environments required for the individual handler including the general community.
A guide dog is a mobility aid as they truly allow the handler to be out and about within society and to allow their handler to participate, interact and realise their full potential whether the handler is legally blind or has a vision impairment. Each of our Empower Guide Dogs is individually trained to meet the needs of the handler by providing safe and efficient independent mobility for our visually impaired clients.
Our guide dogs are trained to Australian and International standards. Did you know that people often think that guide dogs work all the time. In reality, the dogs usually only work when the handlers leave their residence to access the broader community where the handler may not be as confident as they are in their own environment. Guide dogs can be taught particular routes to frequently visited places however they are not a GPS system and they are trained to guide and to avoid hazards and unsafe situations.
Hearing dogs are specifically trained to alert their hearing-impaired handlers to a large range of various noises both within the household and general environments. Some hearing dog handlers do not require the dogs to go out with them and assist them in public whilst other handlers require their dogs to be robust and competent to assist them in any or all environments. Many of the noise tasks that hearing dogs alert to are sounds that you and I may take for granted such as a knock at the door or a ring of the doorbell, the kettle boiling, the phone ringing or some other type of communication device sounding, an alarm of any kind including smoke alarms and baby crying just to name a few.
Hearing dogs by design are taught to alert their handler to these sounds in a variety of ways such as a nose nudge, doing a certain behaviour in front of the handler to gain attention or sometimes utilising a paw touch on a certain part of the handler’s body – usually the lower leg. These same dogs whilst very aware of trained response to certain noises, generally are not required to respond to unconditioned noises such as things that would normally happen that are not required or for safety in everyday life.
The Hearing dogs are an aid to assist their hearing-impaired handlers with communication and again each dog is individually trained to meet the needs of their handler as every handler’s environment is unique so we have set tasks to teach each dog but also there may be additional training requirements for each handler. As part of our service dog breeding program, we have incorporated Toy Poodles to allow us to have access to high quality puppies with all genetic and health checks so we can raise and train them for the purpose of ensuring we can produce our own in house sound candidates that can be raised from puppies through to their advanced training and finally onto their hearing-impaired handlers.
Please contact Head Office and speak with Tracey before attempting to fill out form. If you are suitable she will provide you with a password to fill out this form. If you are wanting to send an enquiry via email, you can do this on the Contact Us page.
Meet some of our Handler and Dog Teams
The biggest thrill for the Empower Assistance Dog Training Team is the day that one of the dogs goes to their new handler. We never lose a dog, we gain another family into our Empower Community. Check out some of our awesome dog and handler teams below.
Jazmin with Colin
Jazmin received her assistance dog Colin in October 2013. Jaz was 12 years old at the time and had been wanting an assistance dog for many years.
A word from Jaz….
I never dreamed all those years ago when I first got Colin, that I would ever have the independence that I have today. My life is a lot different to what I thought it could be…Colin and I have an unbreakable bond.
Being able to go out in public alone with Colin creates a feeling of safety for me. Colin helps me emotionally as well as physically. Whenever my heart rate speeds up, Colin rests his head on my legs to comfort me which makes me relax.
His main role is to help me physically by helping me balance whilst walking, picking up items or holding something I may need or when my hands are full, and helping me off the floor if I fall over. He’s reliable, he has a unique personality and he does things that he wasn’t initially trained to do because he can. He always tries hard to be there for me and he will pretty much give anything a go if it means it’ll help me.
Where ever we go he looks at me with admiration. He’s very expressive and we read each other really well. He is the missing part of my soul.
Anne with Persia
A word from Anne…
I have become the recipient of a wonderful girl named Persia. It is always hard to work with a dog who you must put all your trust into. Persia is certainly one girl who I can trust completely in all facets of my life. I work at CQUniversity as a lecturer therefore Persia has to be able to deal with the stress and strains often associated with meeting a large amount of people from various walks of life.
One day we could be teaching and another day we could be out in the community at an event, our life is never boring. She works through each new situation with her calm demeaner, which also results in me too felling calm and relaxed knowing we can work through anything as a team.
Tom with Ivy
Tom was partnered with Ivy in February, 2017. Ivy is Tom’s assistance dog but with Tom also having vision disabilities it lead us down the path to investigate the possibility of bringing on board a Guide Dog trainer to ensure we could best service our clients with multiple disabilities.
Due to Tom’s vision impairment we also needed to take his cane and any other equipment or aids into account when training his dog but we have concentrated on the assistance task work as a priority for Tom’s dog.
Ivy has already proven herself by indicating when Tom had a brain shunt blockage. She wouldn’t leave Tom’s side and demonstrated a clear behaviour change which alerts Tom’s mother to call an ambulance and get Tom to the hospital for emergency surgery.
Ivy helps Tom on a daily basis picking up dropped or wanted items, she has helped Tom to achieve better sleeping habits and get’s help when needed. This is a short paragraph from Tom’s Mum about the Empower Assistance Dogs program and what it means to her family:
“Tom is an only child and is turning 13 years old. He is quite small as he was born very premmie, has had many operations and has a number of disabilities to cope with. A dog for Tom has so many benefits. Not only a companion but a friend he can talk to, have comfort whenever he needs it, a buddy to make him feel calm, safe and secure, particularly through hard or scary times.
Tom loves that he can get his room tidied up with help from a dog without having to do too much work lol… As well as these benefits, I see a young boy going through puberty, a new high school and an ability to make friends more easily in social environments, when he has a cool dog with him.I think the bond they develop will assist with emotions, autism and other medical issues. I see laughter and fun and a true blessing and a great benefit that Tom will also learn is about responsibility.”
Lewis with Bouncer
Bouncer is a wonderful companion for Lewis, assisting socially, emotionally and physically.
Bouncer was a dog that was donated to us by Logan City Council Animal Management when she arrived at the Council Pound. She wasn’t in fantastic condition so we cleaned her up, put some weight on her and then started her rehabilitation and training until finally we could transition her across to working with Lewis.
She helps wake him up in the morning by tugging his Doona or getting onto his bed so he can cuddle her and get the tactile sensory feedback he needs (she knows she cannot jump on the bed without command). She sits beside him and reduces his anxiety whilst eating breakfast.
She helps him pack his school bag by bringing items from the floor to him. She picks up dropped items for him that he otherwise could not get. She nudges doors open for him. She fetches her food bowl so Lewis can be the one to feed her. On a social level, Bouncer facilitates many conversations and interactions. Lewis enjoys talking about her which promotes positive social skills. His anxiety is reduced in social situations as he can focus on Bouncer.
Bouncer strengthens Lewis and Brooke’s relationship by encouraging team work as they have a common bond.On an emotional level, Bouncer is always there for him, to listen to him, he reads stories to her, teaches her lessons from school (this week it was Science lol). She provides the sensory feedback he needs for sensory regulation. He will lay and cuddle with her for ages! If he gets upset he cuddles her and feels better quickly.
Two more things..
1. Bouncer takes Lewis clothes to the wash basket when he commands her to…which is great as if not he would leave it on the floor!
2. She takes items between us which reduces his crawling/bouncing on the floor and saves me having to stop what I am doing to walk the length of the house!
Jordan with Brax
A Word from Jordan’s Mum & Dad
“Thank you so much Empower Assistance Dogs for enriching Jordan’s life (and ours) with Brax.
Jordan is now 22 years old and leads a challenging life. He is intellectually impaired, autistic, non-verbal and copes with fine & gross motor skill difficulties, as well as behavioural issues. Jordan functions at an elevated level (mood, anxiety), which can trigger meltdowns (sometimes, including aggression) if not diffused quickly.
So a fairly full assignment for Brax, but what an amazing dog!
With jacket on, Brax is disciplined, focused on Jordan and calm (and, most importantly, a calming influence on Jordan). Brax ignores distractions and reliably responds, not only to verbal commands from us, but to physical prompts and cues he has quickly picked up from Jordan (just as the Empower Trainers said Brax would, despite Dad’s initial scepticism!).
With jacket off, Brax is everything and more we had hoped he would add to our family. We have never seen Jordan so attached and bonded to anything. They play, they cuddle and have their jobs (taking the rubbish out daily together is a favourite chore for both of them). Jordan loves that Brax sleeps in his room. It is just lovely to see that they are truly the best of mates.
In the car, Jordan loves that Brax snuggles in and places his paw on Jordan’s leg. Just a little thing, but this type of connection has become so important to Jordan and it seems Brax knows. Brax is also a brilliant traveller. On a roadtrip from the Gold Coast to Canberra and back, he remained settled the entire time. What would usually have been extremely stressful for Jordan (taking him away from his usual surroundings/routines) was in fact a lot of fun for Jordan. He also enjoyed sleeping in the various accommodations with Brax.
Now that Brax is in his life, Jordan has become more cooperative and life is so much easier for us as his parents. It is no longer such a battle to get him showered and dressed, because Brax supports him by sitting in the bathroom or bedroom. In place of “pre-Brax” battles, Jordan compliantly responds simply to “Brax is watching” or “Brax is helping”.
Getting Jordan to the beach used to be a monumental achievement for us – not now a problem at all. Again, simply “Brax needs you to take him for a walk” and off we go.
Brax recently supported Jordan at a gym session put on for young adults with disabilities. After a while, we took Brax’s jacket off and Brax responded tolerantly and well to the attention he received and it was clear Jordan was very proud of his dog.
Brax has been great for us, too. We now have more time for work and ourselves generally, because Jordan hangs with Brax.
Brax has quickly become a valued and very much loved member of our family. He is absolutely the best thing for Jordan and we are so grateful to Empower Assistance Dogs.”
Jacob with Lou
Tracey and Craig selected Lou as a pup from the Animal Welfare League Qld after he made it through their selection process as a candidate for their assistance dog program.
Jacob doesn’t like being in confined spaces but with Lou’s help he will ride in a lift.
Lou also became a passenger on long distance flights, sitting at Jacob’s feet, so Jacob had him to look after, rather than worry about the plane flight. Whenever Jacob gets really upset, Lou runs to him and stays with him until the moment has passed. Even though Lou wasn’t trained in this role, he instinctively knows what to do.
Lou also helps out by being with Jacob and keeping him calm during dental and doctor appointments as well as having blood tests.
Ever since Lou arrived at our place, Lou has always gone to Jacob’s bedroom at night and stays with him until he goes to sleep. Often they cuddle up together.
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