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The safety and welfare of the dogs, the prisoners/offenders and the staff will be the number one priority throughout our entire programme. If at any time during the project it is felt that there is a danger to one of the dogs, or indeed to an individual, then the dog or the individual will be removed from the project immediately. Similarly, if it was felt that one of the dogs was not coping with the project or environment for another reason, they would not participate any longer.


The people eligible to work on the project will be ones who have demonstrated a determination or willingness to change their behaviour in a positive manner. They need be engaged in rehabilitation programs and be engaging in the prison system in general. A position within this project is so coveted, that the people who secure a place on the project will really want to stay there. If there is any aversive treatment to the dogs at any time, then that person will not be allowed to participate on the project any further without exception. All participants are asked to sign a behaviour contract at the beginning of the programme, that clearly stipulates what is acceptable and not acceptable. Contravening these rules at any times is not taken lightly and leads to the termination of their participation on the programme. That being said, the people will be set up to succeed and will understand before they meet their dogs about positive reinforcement, positive handling of dogs and managing frustration, since this is a key part of their learning on how to train dogs.

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Restart Dogs are a Full Member of Animal Assisted Intervention International 2022. AAII is a coalition of practitioners, individuals or organisations working to a high standard in the field of Animal Assisted Intervention. 

We have used the welfare model of the AIIA as a template for our program, adjusting it to fit in with the particular situation of a prison setting.

The “Five Freedoms” in conjunction with Operational Details of the Five Domains Model and its key Applications to the Assessment and Management of Animal Welfare (Mellor, 2017), and the One Health Initiative (One Health, 2019), must underpin all of the Restart Dog Projects activity and form the basic rights that all dogs in our care can expect.

  1. Freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor (Grandgeorge & Hausberger, 2011; Milani, 2016; KINDGOM, U. 2017).
    Aims: “Minimise thirst and hunger and enable eating to be a pleasurable experience” (Mellor, 2017). We ensure that we use high quality diets, including feed puzzles, Kong, snuffle mats and recreational bones to aid relaxation and adequate enrichment and stimulation.

  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing a suitable environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area (Grandgeorge & Hausberger, 2011; KINDGOM, U. 2017).
    Aims: “Minimise discomfort and exposure and promote thermal, physical and other comforts” (Mellor, 2017). Our dogs have their own safe space for rest areas, warm and dry inside their classroom. Bedding is kept clean and comfortable, with covered sleep spaces if the dog prefers, ensuring undisturbed sleep during the day, with predictable sleep regimes in the foster homes in the evenings along with weekend rest

  3. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease by prevention and/or rapid diagnosis and treatment (Grandgeorge & Hausberger, 2011). We choose our puppies from healthy DNA screened parents to reduce the risk of hereditary health problems and deceases. Our dogs have regular Vet check-ups, vaccines and worming schedules. Aims: “Minimise breathlessness, nausea, pain and other aversive experiences and promote the pleasures of robustness, vigor, strength and coordinated physical activity” (Mellor, 2017). Example-Our puppies have a variety of floor surfaces and environments to explore and train around, with exercises to promote physical condition and muscle development, our training incorporates proprioceptive awareness activities.

  4. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions that avoid mental suffering (Grandgeorge & Hausberger, 2011). Aims: “Promote various forms of comfort, pleasure, interest, confidence and a sense of control” (Mellor, 2017). Example: “Provide safe, congenial and species-appropriate opportunities to have pleasurable experiences” (Mellor, 2017). Ensure goodness of fit for dog and environment, population, and activity level. Our dogs are carefully desensitised to any environmental stimuli that may cause a stress response, at all times a trained member of staff is able to prioritise dog safety and wellbeing above any other duties. All handlers are trained in Canine Body language and understand stress signals.

  5. Freedom to express most normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the dog’s own kind (Glenk et al, 2013; Grandgeorge & Hausberger, 2011). Aims: “Minimize threats and unpleasant restrictions on behaviour and promote engagement in rewarding activities” (Mellor, 2017). Example: Congenial company and appropriately varied conditions (Mellor, 2017). Being able to rest, play and engage in enriching activities that the dog prefers and enjoys. “Animals develop a better relationship to humans if, above the quality of interactions, their life conditions are appropriate” (Grandgeorge & Hausberger, 2011).The animal human bond is central to all that we do, encouraging attachments and ensuring that any handler involved interacts in a caring and compassionate way at all times.


 2: Standards of Practice for the Dog Handler

  1. All training and handling methods should be designed to promote the welfare of the dog(s). Dogs should be always trained and handled in a positive and humane manner. When participants handle the dogs, they should be encouraged to use positive methods and respect for the dog (Mellor, 2017; One Health, 2019; Winkle & Ni, 2019). 

  2. Trainers and handlers will use least restrictive, minimally aversive (LIMA)/positive reinforcement/reward based (food, toys, verbal cues, touch, etcetera) and humane training techniques to train and engage the dogs to the greatest degree possible (Glenk et al, 2013; Mellor, 2017). The dog handler must train the dog to respond to verbal and/or non-verbal cues. The training team will observe at all times intervening if the hander seems to unaware of any mounting frustration or stress levels of the dog that they are working with.

  3. The training technique must be compatible with the situation in which the dog will be working. For example, down stays could be taught so that the dog learns to relax in the position rather than be on high alert, waiting for the next cue.

  4. The dog handler must comply with all the points in the behaviour contract that they sign when entering the program. They must always follow the direction of the training team and continue to learn and develop their own training skills whilst attending the project.

  5. The dog handler must show careful handling, supporting the dog when required. The dog handler must encourage initiative, adaptability, and problem-solving skills while still maintaining control. This is important for the dog to learn to have genuine interactions with participants. During RDP work, the participants should be able to observe the RDP dog trainers handling, always showing empathy and kindness to the dog. This will help the participant to understand how to interact with dogs in a safe and positive way (Winkle & Ni, 2019).


We adhere to the AAII standards with regards to the emotional wellbeing of the dogs participating in our programs, which are as follows:

  1. Be aware of how human emotional state (both from handlers and participants) and behavior can influence dog’s emotional state/behavior and vice versa.

  2. Dogs should view owner or handler as a secure base in order to explore environment, play, and interact with strangers. (Topal , Miklosi, Csanvi & Doka, 1998; Vanfleet, 2017); however dog should be comfortable working directly with participants.

  3. View animal as subjective participant instead of objective instrument, assess animal’s behaviour and HAI, not just human’s reaction. The animal is a key part to the intervention and can heavily influence the outcomes (Vitztum & Urbanik, 2016).

  4. During sessions, the welfare of the dog must be considered. Dogs must be monitored closely for clinical signs of stress, injury, illness, fear, and fatigue. Stress levels in dogs must be minimized before, during, and after each AAI session, as well as in living environment. (One Health, 2019).

  5. Dogs must never be placed in situations in which they could be at physical or emotional risk. Dogs must not be abused, dragged, physically forced into a position, choked or harmed in any way. Stress and anxiety must be managed for the betterment of the dog (Glenk, 2017; Palestrini et al., 2017, One Health, 2019).

  6. The dog handler must educate the participant about rules of engagement, dog handling and safety rules. The participants will treat the dog with appreciation and respect. The dog handler must take responsibility for the welfare of the dog, and be able to advocate on the dogs behalf. Ref;AAII STANDARDS OF PRACTICE  Revised February 20, 2019 Winkle, Dickson & Simpson.

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