Australia's first dementia assistance dog graduates

The benefits of a trained assistance dog supporting people living at home with dementia has been highlighted during a special 'graduation ceremony' for one of the dogs involved in the Dogs 4 Dementia program.

Jiyu, a two-year-old black Labrador, was one of six specially-trained dogs - and the first Dementia Assistance Dog - to be involved in the graduation ceremony held in Melbourne by Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA).

The ceremony marked the official handover of these "super dogs" to their new owners, including for Jiyu, Vyrna and Rolf Beilharz, one of the first couples to be involved in the Dogs4Dementia program.

“The people who raise these dogs deserve a medal for the wonderful results achieved,” said Vyrna.

“Jiyu goes to Rolf and if I say 'where's Rolf', he''ll go there. They are bonded and [when we walk] Rolf always leads him. It just added a very stabilising happy presence to the house," Vyrna told SBS News.

The Dogs 4 Dementia program was launched in late 2015, and is the largest trial of its kind in the world, with 10 couples in total expected to receive a dog by the end of this year.

The program is funded by the Federal Government and is being run by HammondCare in partnership with ADA.

Dementia Centre spokesperson, Marie Alford, who presented Vyrna and Rolf with a certificate at the ceremony, said the aim of the program was to help people with dementia stay at home and live in their local community for longer.

“It is hoped that the placement of dogs with people living with dementia and carers at home will promote greater independence and confidence. So far this has been the overwhelming feedback from the couples involved in the program.”

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