Craig is the founder of the charity, Veterans With Dogs, which trains Assistance Dogs to increase independence and improve quality of life for British ex-servicemen and women with mental health conditions.

When was Veterans With Dogs founded and what was your initial inspiration?
I founded the charity in 2012 after witnessing the effect of Labrador, Fudge’s, presence during a six-week residential treatment programme for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, where she assumed the role of matriarch for all 16 ex-servicemen.
She gave herself her own jobs and took it upon herself to keep an eye on everyone attending treatment, and to provide a sense of comfort and relief for many of those that found the day emotionally difficult.
Seeing these behaviours led to some long conversations about the need for further development of this kind of work, to bring the positive benefits of dog ownership to a wider audience whose needs were based on mental health conditions resulting from trauma. So Fudge was my inspiration!

How many British ex-servicemen and women do you think you have helped over this time?
We have worked with over 200 veterans since then, providing various activities including workshops, residential training, open days, meet-and-greet events and educational initiatives. We’re pleased with what we’ve done so far, but we want to do so much more.

Can you tell us about one of your proudest moments?
We were delighted to receive an award from Dogs Today magazine in recognition of the work Fudge had done. But the best moments are always those times when we get to see results. When those light bulb moments happen, witnessing the tangible difference that a dog can make to someone’s well being, it is an amazing feeling.

Where do you find the dogs that you go on to train? Do you ever work with rescue dogs?
Our dogs can be sourced from anywhere – from breeders to rescue centres, provided that they are assessed as suitable for the work that is intended, and that they are of a suitable age and temperament to train and work with.

Do you match the dogs to the people or do you train the dogs when you encounter a person with a specific need?
Dogs are trained specifically for each individual, as needs are very different from person to person. The earlier we begin the process the more pronounced the results, which is why we prefer to start with puppies rather than a mature dog as a great deal depends on the bond that is developed between the two in order to cement a working partnership.

Can you tell us a bit more about your Assistance Dog programme and what it focuses on?
The programme is the first of its kind in the UK – specifically training dogs for the mental health needs of trauma resulting from military service. The dogs are trained in task-work unique to each individual and their needs. This can be from medication reminders and retrieval, grounding techniques and calming measures for panic attacks or heightened anxiety, turning lights on during nightmares, waking up the handler and motivation, guiding to a safe place, focus work to reduce hyper vigilance – the list goes on.

What are your aspirations for the future?
We wish to provide more partnerships and increase our capacity to meet the ever growing demand for our work. Longer term we are looking to establish a centre of excellence with our own facilities capable of providing even more support combining clinical professional services and animal behavioural training.

Being a non profit organisation, relying on fundraising and donations, how do people get in touch if they wish to contribute?
All donations are very gratefully received and as a small charity donations make a very big difference. People can donate or just contact us for more information or help through the website –

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