La Trobe University has welcomed 10 very good puppies – a Corgi, Poodle, five Lagotto Romagnolo, two Golden Retrievers, and a Labrador Retriever – to its Bundoora Campus as part of an innovative program to help veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The puppies are spending the next 12 months at the Bundoora campus training to become mental health assistance dogs, with support from staff and students who have volunteered as puppy raisers and socialisers.
The launch of the training program in Bundoora marks the second phase of a four-year, $2 million project funded by the Australian government’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs, successfully introduced at the La Trobe Bendigo campus with eight puppies in March 2019.
Lead researcher, Dr Tiffani Howell from La Trobe’s School of Psychology and Public Health, said raisers and socialisers are sharing the training and care duties for the puppies they’ve been carefully matched with.
“Our raisers have full-time responsibility for the puppies and their training needs, adopting them into their homes and taking them to their workplaces or university lectures and classes,” Dr Howell said.
“Training a puppy to become a working dog is a big job. It requires a lot of time and patience.
“For this reason, we have a great group of puppy socialisers who take it in turns to expose the puppies to all kinds of people and environments for up to five hours a week, giving the raisers a small break from their vital role in this research project.”