Dutch Assistance Dogs -
What a difference a dog makes ...
Our goal is to support and coach (young) adults with mental problems and we use their own assistance dog as aid for the coaching.
Assistance Dog Toby making contact with his owner, our client who needs his support. Being able to connect, to experience their safe bubble helps her in situations that are stressfull for her.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:
Yes, I’m eligible
Yes, I’m 18 years old or older
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:
Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020
Initiative's representative name
To be determined - depending on the availability of one of the coaches
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
A large part of the Netherlands (determined by training locations coaches)
Website or social media url(s)
28th of August 2017
Enhance physical activity and wellness
Enhace psychical wellbeing as well as self-sustainability of clients
What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?
nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
Cis, a coach who is one of the founders of Dutch Assistance Dogs was coaching a client who was battling a lonely battle against anorexia despite many loving people and skilled professionals surrounding her and trying to help her.
However nothing and nobody seemed to be able to do that. That was untill her dog arrived in her life - for him she was able to turn her life around ... to start eating again, for the spark to re-appear in her eyes. He literally made the difference between life and dead for this person. Then Cis knew that this was something we had to start working on .... helping more people connecting with a dog and having them change their life.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Our clients battle with mental problems like anorexia, PTSS and/or Autism and for many of them no further treatment is available. This leaves them in a ugly place in life - one filled with sadness and loneliness. We believe in the potential of every single person and by expanding the potential we believe that every body can make progress in dealing with mental problems, especially when a dog becomes part of your potential.
3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Specific planning is not one of the solutions of our approach - our coaching is always tailor made - what does this particulair client need, what mental problems drag her down.
But in general terms -> a dog brings unconditional love so finally you matter for somebody, somebody needs you and looks forward to explore the world with you.
A dog does not judge so when you fail a treatment or do not reach a set goal that week, he still things the you're the best. He is your partner for life but not somebody who you can fool. He will signal stress , low blood sugarlevels and overstimulation. All this offering opportunities to start working on yourself and your problems. And you are not only doing it for yourself, your welbeing is now also the welbeing of your dog, a hudge motivation to keep going, even when times are rough.
Per client, per dogs the situation and therefor the councelling is different. We aim to certify the team as an official assistance dog team within the period of 1,5 / 2 years. We coach the team 1 on 1 on a weekly basis but are also on standby through whats-app 7 days a week to give support in difficult situations or urgent questions.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
What distinguishes our method is our proximity through coaching - we are not healthcare professials but contribute to treatments by introducing / explaining the signals that the dogs give to the professionals so that they can interpretate better how the client is doing.
Plus the high level of tailor made approach - not only in the coaching process itself but for example also in the choice of dog (breed / character etc).
5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?
Part of the coaching process is helping the client to train their own dog for the official assistance dogs certification. This means that the dog can accompany the client everywhere in his / her lift.
This enables the client to slowly but surely become part of society again : go back to school or start a job, build up social connections, taking care of yourself by being active and outside but also to be able to go to the supermarket in order to do your own groceries.
An assistance dog contributes on many different ways to the recovery proces of the mental and physical health. Having and taking care of a dog increases the self-sustainability of the client which means that the client is less reliable on his of her social netwerk or care takers.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
At the current moment we have 6 coaches who are working together with a total of 50 client - dog combinations in various stages of their coaching proces / certification.
Since we started in 2017 12 clients and their dogs are certified and are currently visited every year to make sure they re-certificy.
We have a substantial waiting list with people interested in starting a coaching process with our foundation.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
We are very careful about growth.
It is definately a dream of us to be able to serve more people. As you read before we have a long waiting list but because of the fact that we work on a tailor made basis we cannot speed up our work when the client and / or dog is not ready for this. And being busy with clients it is difficult for the coaches to also train new coaches, not in the least because of the fact that working relationship is usually a very confidential one so not always possible to have a new coach learn on the job.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Although not formally studied we see in our daily practise that clients need less or shorter periods of care such as hospitalisation. To less pressure on the health care system (but subsequently less costs).
A number of our clients can be said to be to have picked up their life completely with their dogs and now leading a healthy and happy life. Others are in a definate upwards spiral of their recovery.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
As a non profit organisation we rely on sponsoring and funding. We aim to keep our overhead costs low but the further need to professionalise has a heavy toll on the available resources.
As every Euro counts clients have taken up the initiative to start a webshop for which they handcraft dog toys - the proceeds come towards the foundation. A wonderful initiative when you remember that this was their own idea, it gives them a sence of purpose, they contribute to something.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
We have a board that consists of 3 members :
President - orthopedagogue
Treasurer - family member of a client
Secretary - a nurse
The board are being supported by a representative from the coach team and a volunteer (administration)
6 coaches who are double schooled in cynology (dog training and behaviour) and in health care such as psychology / social work / training and development of people.
11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?
We could like to further professionalise our organisation in order to be able to beter serve more clients
12. How did you hear about this challenge?
13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.
We can tell you what we think we try to achieve but 2 of our clients have written down their story in their own words in such a touching way that we could never say better.
I have added their stories at the top of this entry form as an attachment : Answer to (additional) question 13.
14. Mutual Benefit: Explain how your project mutually benefits the pets involved – how is the pet not only used as tool?
Unlike a pet dog, an emotional support dog hardly ever needs to stay at home alone. He always accompanies his owner. Clients often have a lot of time for their dog and the dog means everything to them! The dogs are therefore pampered. We closely monitor that dogs regularly go out of function and can just be dogs. Walking of the leash, playing with other dogs and of course relaxing. We also offer activities in which clients can take part with their dogs. These are for example walks or game days. We have a special working group that comes up with activities that are fun for both the boss and the dog.
15. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?
Our coaching method and the client's influence in it is our USP. The client needs are the starting point of every step in the process. We keep the learning goals of the client in mind, when testing the specific pup. We adjust the coaching process to the client. This means that every dog learns different things. Our goal is not only for the client to have an assistance dog, but also for the team to undergo personal development during the process of training the dog and taking him to places they might avoid otherwise. The coaches are double educated. They both have knowledge of dog behavior and of guiding people with psychological problems. Coaches are also available at other times to assist clients, with chat support. We also use Workplace, a place for our clients to exchange experiences with other clients, to find recognition, but also to rebuild their social network.
And the dogs can show their natural behavior. We teach clients to read the dogs and see what they have to tell them.
16. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project.
We wo like to branch out and collaborate with quite a few groups. We would like to work with Health Care Insurance companies and local municipalities and city councils, to cover financing, this would ensure more people could be helped that might otherwise be unable to afford an Assistance Dog.
We’d also like to work with more health care providers, especially mental health carers and individual caretakers, to be able to offer the best individually tailored care for each person and spread more awareness as a whole. But also to educate them about how to read the dog can give them a better understanding of how the client for example is doing. Specific behavior of the dog for example could signal high stress levels whereas the client would answer the question "how are you today" with the answer "fine". Knowing the dog and its behaviour would give the caretaker the indication that perhaps the client is not feeling so well at all.
17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?
Several publications have been written about DAD or about individual clients, which spoke highly about the effects their dogs and coaches had on the life quality. Several psychology students are writing papers on the subject for their studies, heavily basing their findings about the impact of assistance dogs. None of these matter as much to us as the recognition we get from our clients, the massive improvement we see in their life and the growth we and family, friends and caretakers see in them.
18. Your Self-Elevator Pitch (OPTIONAL): Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.
Bodhi - one of our lifesavers ... his owner Charmaine tells their story. Words that are accompanied by pictures that say it all.
I hope I have uploaded this video in the correct way (am not a IT-wizard, I am afraid) -> if not correctly uploaded please visit YouTube - Dutch Assistance Dogs channel -> Purina Pitch - Story of Bhodi
One of our clients Kara with her dog Eri who shared her story at question 13
19. Financial Sustainability (OPTIONAL): Please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project, include an attached document with your detailed business plan or other equivalent information. (This information will NOT be shared with your fellow contestant, it will only be visible to you and internal Prize reviewers).
We are a non-profit organisation. Clients (60 in 2019) contribute an amount of Euro 120 per person to cover organisational costs (bank fees / postage / internet fees etc).
Sponsor money (Euro 10.000 in 2019) is spend to support the work of the coaches such as the production of a handbook, DAD harnasses for the dogs / ID passes and to organize special events for clients. Our goal is to commit more various sponsorships to DAD for multiple years that will generate less vulnerability and would provide security.
Your gift makes it possible to use a part of our stable source of income to ensure an appropriate compensation for volunteers to carry out essential tasks such as financial administration, client intake and administration and coordination.