Dogs for Kids with Disabilities (DKD)

Trained assistance and therapy dogs are making a difference to the lives of children living with autism and other developmental disorders, thanks to Dogs for Kids with Disabilities.
Carrum Downs based Dogs for Kids with Disabilities (DKD) is a not for profit organisation, matching trained assistance and therapy dogs with children that have physical and intellectual challenges.
DKD dogs provide companionship and confidence to children who may otherwise struggle in social settings and new situations by increasing confidence and lowering anxiety.
How DKD is changing the lives of Melbourne children
Before Dogs for Kids with Disabilities (DKD) placed a therapy dog Elmo with her new companion Layla, life was different.
Layla is a bright bubbly 6-year-old girl who loves animals, jumping on the trampoline, cuddles with Mummy, How to Train Your Dragon and Minecraft. Layla is also autistic, has an anxiety disorder and has difficulty regulating her sensory input.
“Before Elmo joined our family, Layla and I couldn’t be in a different room without her getting upset” says Layla’s Mum. “Layla is now sleeping in her own room at night, without me, now that Elmo stays with her”.
Layla’s story is one of many. DKD dogs are providing comfort, confidence, safety and independence to children with additional needs.
Benjamin, now 7 years old, was diagnosed with Autism four years ago. He has impaired language and social skills, is not toilet trained, and has difficulty participating in ‘normal’ activities. Benjamin, one of 6 children, suffers from a heightened anxiety when presented with new situations or changes to routine.
Benjamin was matched with an assistance dog, Harvey. Harvey has been trained to help ease anxiety and agitation. Benjamin has come leaps and bounds since his partnership with Harvey, demonstrated in a recent video shared on his Facebook page, showing how calm and relaxed he is getting his hair cut; an event which previously involved a full meltdown, angst and tears.
About Dogs for Kids with Disabilities
DKD does not receive any Government funding and relies on support from sponsors and fundraising events. Training 50-55 puppies at any one time and having matched about 60 dogs since 2012 means this organisation is changing the lives of many families. Completing all of this with only four employees is made possible with the help of more than 70 amazing volunteers.
It takes 18 months – 2 years to train one full assistance dog (public access with a coat) and the costs reach $40,000. Families are asked to fundraise $25,000 toward the cost of the DKD program. In comparison, costs associated with training a therapy dog reach about $16,000 and families fundraise $8,000.
DKD has recently embarked on a new breeding program and plan to provide even more life changing dogs in the coming years to meet client demand.
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