A Scottish charity that pairs support dogs with veterans is looking for foster carers who can take on the commitment of training their puppies for up to a year.

Bravehound was set up in 2016 to provide support and companionship to former soldiers living with post-traumatic stress disorder, training up to ten dogs a year.

For Lorraine Stewart, head of dog training and welfare at Bravehound, being a ‘puppy parent’ and training the dogs for their future duties is “very rewarding”.

She said: “The difference these dogs actually make to the veterans is phenomenal. I went down to London once with one of the guys and he told me that it was the first time he had been on a train in 20 years and he wouldn’t have done it without his dog.

“On more than one occasion we’ve had guys come back to us to say they wouldn’t be here without the dogs.”

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And Lorraine knows first-hand the ups and downs of fostering, with six dogs of her own and a new Bravehound recruit, a German shepherd, recently added to the mix.

The former police dog handler has worked with the charity since it started, even donating the first ever Bravehound, Irma, a springer spaniel who went to live with former bomb disposal expert, Paul Wilkie, who credits the dog for saving his life.

Foster carers are paired with their Bravehounds at around eight-weeks old when training begins. Weekly training classes are held at the Erskine headquarters of the charity and five-weekly for puppy-parent meetups.

All food, veterinary costs and training tools are paid for during the time the dogs are cared for and training manuals and record books are provided.

For fosterers further afield, Bravehound can cover the costs of agreed trainers and classes.

HeraldScotland: The puppies taking their duties very seriously. Credit: UGCThe puppies taking their duties very seriously. Credit: UGC

Bravehound maintains ownership of all of their dogs, giving them to veterans on a lifetime lease.

Puppy parents will train the puppies in basic obedience and prepare them for their public access test - where the dog is able to navigate any environment and can traverse shops, restaurants and public transport with ease.

Lorraine said: “The dogs are trained up so they can provide emotional support to their veteran and one of the main things is being able to take them out and about.

“The dogs will give the guys and girls the confidence to go and lead a more normal life.”

Bravehound dogs are trained to fetch medicines and to ‘block and cover’ when their owner is feeling vulnerable.

Lorraine said: “The dog will stand in position just to give a bit of distance between the veteran and general members of the public. They are also trained up to a level where they are an unobtrusive presence walking loosely at their handler’s heel or lying under a table in a restaurant.”

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The dog foster carers will have to introduce the puppies to new experiences so they can “step from a field in the country onto a train and pop out the other end in somewhere like Glasgow City Centre and not be phased by it”, says Lorraine.

But over-indulgent dog lovers need not apply, while this trait is perfectly acceptable with a domestic dog, Bravehound pups need to have stricter rules so they can carry out their duties. Crate training is standard and jumping up on furniture univited is a no-no.

Potential foster parents don’t need to have dog training or owning experience but must be able to commit their time to the puppies-in-training.

Lorraine said: “It’s a lot of work and we have set rules but being a puppy parent is amazing and it’s a huge, huge difference they make.”