The History and Achievements of DHK
Dogs Helping Kids has been evolving over 25 years when the founder, Tracey Berridge, was inspired as a teenager (in the 1980's) by a film about a very special dog called Skeezer in America who helped problem children. From this initial seed Tracey was set on course to one day set up and run a charity that trained dogs to help all children. Firstly she became a highly trained professional positive dog trainer (and has been now for over 20 years) and has run both a dog training centre (Canine Etiquette) and a dog training consultancy (Puppy Gurus). She gained a Masters Postgraduate Degree in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling and specialised in canine behaviour, providing a canine behavioural referral service for all veterinary practices across the South West for many years. During this time she was the first person in the country to undertake a two year postgraduate research study looking at using dogs in schools as classroom assistants. Once all this had been achieved, Dogs Helping Kids started life...
Whilst studying for her Master Postgraduate Degree in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling at Southampton University, Tracey became interested in learning more about why children were often cruel to their beloved pets. During her research into these areas she got to know Paul Owens, a similar positive dog trainer (like Tracey), who is based in Los Angeles in America and who ran an organisation called Paws for Peace.
Paws for Peace uses rescue dogs to teach the children non-violence and how to look after and train dogs. At the end of the programme these rescue dogs are all guaranteed adoption. Through further research, Tracey discovered that there were many similar organisations all across America, using dogs to help and teach children respect and non-violence – from Project Pooch to PAWS in the Classroom, from Project PAL (People, Animals, Learning) to Humans and Animals Learning Together (The HALT programme). At this time there were none in the United Kingdom.
Tracey started her two year postgraduate academic research project of her own design at Southampton University looking at why children are cruel to their pets and using dogs in schools as classroom assistants. Tracey was the first person in the country to undertake academic research on Dogs in the School Environment and she discovered through her research that there are tremendous beneficial effects to children from introducing a dog into a school classroom and that this could help to reduce cruelty to animals by children.
Dogs Helping Kids (D.H.K.) came into being as a small North Devon voluntary educational organisation. The first thing that D.H.K. designed were educational school talks, emphasising on prevent a bite for children. The first two School Dogs were assessed – Princess Laya (a lurcher cross) and Ash (a collie) both of whom were rescue dogs. During the following years Laya and Ash went into over 30 North Devon Schools and met literally thousands of children, promoting responsible dog ownership, the five freedoms for a dog to be happy and healthy, prevent a bite, how to read and understand a dog, how to greet a dog correctly and safely, and kind & positive dog training methods.
The D.H.K. Youth Work began, specialising in problem teenagers. A one year course on Dog Training and Behaviour was designed by Tracey using Princess Laya as her main teaching assistant. This one year course ran for 5 years at the North Devon College (now known as Petroc) working with disaffected youths who had emotional, social and behavioural issues. Helping on this course were the Youth Assistant Dog Team who were a group of over 30 highly trained dogs who worked with and interacted with the teenagers on a regular basis during the year.
This year saw the start of making Dogs Helping Kids into a recognised charity. The year ended with a fabulous feature on D.H.K. appearing in the national dog magazine Your Dogs (December 2008 edition). This article concentrated on the Youth work that we have achieved over the years with Princess Laya and our incredible Youth Assistant Dog Team.
Dogs Helping Kids became an official Charity, with registration from the Charity Commission being granted in 2012.
Dogs Helping Kids started its unique School Dog Training Programme with 10 eager local dogs and their owners joining the 2 year intensive training programme. This unique training programme had been designed over many years by Tracey, based on her knowledge of dogs, dog training and dog behaviour. It is constantly being revised and updated to make the School Dog Training Programme the best it can be for both dogs and their owners.
By 2012 Dogs Helping Kids had introduced its 'Puppies in Training' scheme and opened up the School Dog Training Programme to dogs (and their owners) from all over the country. Our unique journey continues into the future and we are constantly evolving and growing - we hope to help as many as children as possible over the coming years with the help of our amazing DHK School Dogs.
DHK has had many achievements over the years both at a national level and a local level. At a local level (Devon) we have been on ITV's Westcountry News, appeared on local radio (The Voice and Radio Devon) and had many features in the local newspaper, The Journal. We have gained national recognition by appearing in newspapers such as The Times and The Telegraph and been in national dog magazines such as Dogs Today, Your Dogs, and Dogs Monthly.
In 2013 we were filmed for Australian TV and appeared on their number one watched show, 'Anh Doh', and in 2014 we featured in two BBC programmes, Sports Relief 'Top Dog' and the acclaimed series 'Animal Saints and Sinners', which featured the story of Liam and his DHK Support School Dog Charlie. In 2016 we appeared on ITV's 'This Morning' show and we had a feature on CBS News in North America.
In 2012 we were given the very high honour of being invited to attend an event celebrating Animals and People, organised by N.O.A.H. at the House of Commons in London, and we were the only charity in the South West chosen to do so. At the event we were able to showcase our charity and everything that we have achieved to both MPs & the media. In 2014 we were included in a national photographic exhibition in London called The Pawtraits Exhibition and from this we were also featured in a beautiful book of the same name.
Dogs Helping Kids is incredibly proud to be a member of the Animal Welfare Education Alliance and also a full member of Animal Assisted Intervention International (AAII), a worldwide academic organisation that was created in 2013 in the field of Animal Assisted Therapy.