How our assistance dogs help these 19 children to walk independently



We are proud to have developed a very successful Walking Stability Programme for children. We pair a child who has severe difficulty walking with one of our very suitable Stability Assistance Dogs. The timing of all of this is extremely important because the child needs to be paired with the dog before they are 12 years old at the very latest. After this age they will be too heavy / not have enough muscle developed to be able to safely work with the dog.

We have seen dramatic improvements in the walking abilities of the children who have gone through this programme and we are doing everything we can to expand it.


This video is of Jacob in training with his new stability assistance dog Jasper.

At the start of the programme, all the attention goes to the child. Special emphasis is put on how they lift and place their feet, so that they can support their own bodyweight. Simultaneously, the trainer is looking down all the time, focusing on Jacob’s feet and reminding him continuously to lift he’s knees and hit the ground first with his heel and then his toe. The trainer will support the harness to help Jasper get used to the sensation it being pulled up.

These very tense walks as falling is highly likely at this stage. It is paramount that the child and dog are protected as much as possible because maintaining confidence is critical for the success of the partnership.


Here are 19 success stories of children that have gone through our Stability Programme. They explain how their lives have been changed for the better with the help of our wonderful Stability Assistance Dogs (and our Stability Programme):

1. Shauna and assistance dog Jade:
One step at a time, dreams can come true! Shauna is getting on great with her new stability assistance dog Jade, here she’s practicing her balancing and side stepping with her new bestie.

2. Finn and assistance dog Jackson:
Finn out walking his new buddy stability assistance dog Jackson yesterday during training in Cork. Finn is an inspiring and very intelligent young man, with the whole world ahead of him and all he needs is just a bit of help with his walking. Finn normally uses a walker for walking and he’s highly skilled at using his walker but now he’s got Jackson to negotiate his world with him!

3. Adam and assistance dog Jayden:
Adam doing one of his first walks free from his walker, thanks to the mighty stability assistance dog Jayden. It’s very hard to put into words how difficult this is to achieve. Jayden is pulling Adam forward into his next step, as Adams weight goes back. Getting Adam upright and walking will without doubt have huge health benefits for him well into adulthood.

Jayden’s a very steady calm dog and a great focused worker. Shortly after this video, Adam got distracted by the crowd (due to his condition he has to think about every move he makes) as a result he didn’t lift his leg high enough causing him to fall completely flat to the floor. Jayden stood solid, didn’t panic and slowed down Adam’s fall. Adam got back up onto his feet and they both finished their walk. Unfortunately falling is part of walking especially when you’ve got cerebral palsy but Adam is driven and is not going to let that stop him from achieving his dreams of walking .

This morning Adam & Jayden qualified and Adam welled up, doing very well to hold back his tears of joy. Thank you all for giving Adam’s the gift of Jayden and a future of possibilities 💜

4. Jacob and assistance dog Jasper:
The lovely Jacob is in training with his new stability assistance dog Jasper in Cork this week.

During the early days all the attention goes to the child and how they lift and place their feet so that they can support their own body weight. What you’ll notice is that the trainer is looking down all the time focusing on Jacob’s feet and reminding him continually to lift he’s knees and hit the ground heel – toe. The trainer will support the harness to help Jasper to adjust to the sensation of the harness being pulled up.

These are tense enough walks as falling is highly likely at this stage and it’s of utmost importance that the child and dog are protected as much as possible, as maintaining confidence is critical for the success of the partnership.

5. Tadhg and assistance dog Jenny:
Tadhg and Jenny having some down time 💜

6. David and assistance dog Ian:
David and his boy stability assistance dog Ian on their qualification walk 💜

7. Ceri and assistance dog George:
Ceri out for a walk with George her stability assistance dog while on holidays in Puerto Banus in Spain. Before Ceri got George, she was almost completely dependent on her wheelchair and it’s taken a lot of hard work and determination by Ceri and George to develop enough strength and balance to enable her to walk. It’s a long and complicated road but Ceri continues to defy the medics as she should be getting weaker not stronger…!!! WELL DONE CERI & GEORGE 💜

8. Emily and assistance dog Hugo:
Emily on her first walk with her new stability assistance dog Hugo. All I can say is WOW look at them GO…..!!! And to think yesterday Emily was half afraid of the size of Hugo 💜

9. Casey and assistance dog Harrison:
Casey is making huge progress with her stability assistance dog Harrison, far more than we expected at this stage! Well Done Casey and Harrison and keep up the great work, you’re an inspiration to so many 🙂

10. Moya and assistance dog Garfield:
WOW, this is SUCCESS ..!!!
Moya and her stability assistance dog Garfield’s first day at school!
Moya has neuropathy which affect walking and general balance. The difference in Moya’s life since she got Garfield in August 2015, is incredible. Back then she could just manage a 5 min walk holding mums hand and today she can shop for hours with Garfield by her side. Her motorised wheelchair is being returned, as she no longer needs it! In school Moya will be fully responsible for Garfield and he will only respond to her commands, as he is trained to ignore all others! 💜💜💜

11. Patrick and assistance dog Henry
Look at the huge progress Patrick and assistance dog Henry have made.

12. Jason and assistance dog Hannah
CONGRATULATIONS to Jason and his new stability assistance dog Hannah who qualified today, we are so proud of the both of you…..
Hannah is now off to Mayo to begin her new life with Jason and we will be visiting shortly to make sure Hannah settles in well and is happy!

13. Joseph and assistance dog Harvey:
Well, many of you that follow our page will have met Joseph before, when he sent in a video because he really wanted a stability dog to help him walk and he explained to people how a stability dog would help him! Here is Joseph on his first walk with Harvey, an incredibly soft and gentle chocolate brown labrador. First walks are a bit stressful on all involved – the child, the dog and even the trainer because it involves a leap of faith and trust! At this stage there is a lot of emotional support going on to ensure a successful walk and a confident and happy child and dog. SUCCESS!!

14. Caoimhe and assistance dog Herby:
Caoimhe and her stability assistance dog Herby at Mahon point today ❤️. These two are doing great, this is Caoimhe’s first walk with out her crutch AMAZING! The drive and determination that this young girl has to walk is inspirational.

15. Evan and assistance dog Glenn:
Evan and his stability assistance dog Glenn qualified last friday and as you can see they are very happy with each other 🙂
Evan had a hard week with lots of walking but he did extremely well and was delighted to be taking Glenn home to Co Kildare.

16. Lauryn and assistance dog Graham:
Lauryn’s video entry for The Late Late Toy Show…(closing date 6th October)
This little lady is an inspiration to all 🙂 Her stability assistance dog Graham helps her to walk. ( named in honour of our patron at time, the WONDERFUL Graham Norton!!)

Please Share and just maybe, we could help one little girls dream come true…..!

17. Dylan and assistance dog Gem:
Stability assistance dog Gem working with Dylan, beautiful to watch how relaxed they are together on day 2 of their training ❤️. Dylan is an inspirational child and having been born with huge health issues, his success is a credit to his determination to live life and to his family’s consistent care and attention. Well done Dylan we are very proud of you.

18. Orla and assistance dog Alice:
Orla’s first ever walk without a walking stick……..

Building up to our 5 year re-accreditation, we are sharing with you clips of our partnerships in action…
This is Orla and her stability assistance dog Alice and because of Orla and Alice today, we run one of the most successful stability programme for children globally. Based on information we have gathered from talking to assistance dogs schools from around the world through Assistance Dogs International.

19. Cian and assistance dog Freedom:
Cian and his assistance dog Freedom just after they qualified at Festina Lente. Since getting Freedom, Cian can now walk for longer and negotiate hills and obstacles that were almost impossible before. Each year approx 150 children are born with cerebral palsy in Ireland, often with no warning and Cian was one of these children.

The children requiring stability assistance dogs are taught to pull up on the harness to counter balance themselves and transfer their own weight through their skeletal hence developing muscle groups and bone strength. This is way we use a floating handle so that the children can’t transfer their weight onto the dogs back as they are walking (if they push down on the handle, it folds) As pushing down on the dog’s back would have long term health implications for the dog’s health and risk curvature of the spine for the child. What looks a simple walk is far more complicated as there are often many more elements to consider in order to achieve a successful partnership.

The only similar stability programme that we have found (Anywhere in the World!!) is one by Happy Tail Service Dogs, Phoenix, Arizona USA. Happy Tail Service Dogs (Joyce Weber is their CEO) train Great Danes to assist children and adults to walk. More info about their programme and services can be found here:



85% of our applicants are children living with a physical disability and the difference one of our highly trained assistance dogs makes is priceless. We depend entirely on donors like you, as we do not receive any government funding!


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