Dogs that can retrieve cash from ATMs and empty
washing machines help disabled people lead more independent lives, but
can they also help change disruptive teenagers' behaviour?
A unique TV experiment, "Dog House", follows five
unruly youngsters as they're taught to become dog trainers. The
idea is simple. Kids really like dogs. But can the skills involved in training
them - patience, consistency, rewarding good behaviour – give these
teenagers the discipline they need in their own lives?
The teens involved were put forward by local schools
in West Sussex, who had run out of ideas of how to deal with them.
Liam was typical - 14 years old, sullen,
aggressive, foul mouthed and about to be permanently excluded from
school. Allie, Rob and Ellie, had similar problems – they couldn't concentrate,
they didn't like being told what to do and they had serious anger
problems. Katrina was different. She was so shy that she had developed
agoraphobia, she suffered from depression and had taken herself out
of mainstream education.
Gradually, working with the dogs began to have an impact on
the kids. But, in order to fully appreciate the significance of what they
were doing, they needed to meet the disabled people who benefited from having
these dogs. The meetings had a profound impact on the teenagers. After meeting
Eileen Hobson and her dog Sailor, Liam changed his ways and his unlikely
friendship with severely disabled wheelchair user Eileen blossomed.
Two months into the course Liam began to connect with
the dogs too - particularly a young yellow Labrador called Aero. The
relationship flourished so much that the dog often knew
instinctively what the teenager wanted him to do before he'd even asked. "He
just knows," says Liam.
Liam's school noticed a huge change in his whole outlook. His
teacher Nick Brown said "More than anything I see a confident and happy young
man. It's been superb."