Support Dogs is appealing to dog-loving families to foster its life-changing pooches, to help them get used to working with children.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the recruitment of volunteers, the charity is still keen to hear from families with younger children who also have experience with caring for a dog.

Support Dogs is a Sheffield-based national charity that trains assistance dogs for children with autism and adults with epilepsy and disability, enabling them to lead a safer, more independent life.

Says Support Dogs’ chief executive Rita Howson: “A lot of our dogs in training are working towards helping a child with autism, so we really need them to live with families with young children to get used to all that this involves.”

One family from Crookes are currently fostering their third support dog. Having previously fostered Marky (now an autism assistance dog) and Cobble, the Townsends gave a home to Buddy with the understanding that he would be leaving them by April 2020. It is now February 2021 and due to the continuing restrictions affecting face-to-face training with clients, he is still with them.

Normally dogs in training attend ‘school’ during the day, making it ideal for doggy foster carers who work. Lockdown changed that, with the dogs now spending more time with their foster carers, being ‘home-schooled.’

However, for mum and dad Alicia and Julian, and their children Jake, aged 14, and 12-year-old Phoebe, having a succession of well-behaved trainee support dogs over the past couple of years has been a blessing – particularly during the lockdowns.

Says Alicia pictured above left with her family, and below right with Buddy,: “We volunteered to be foster carers for Support Dogs as the kids were desperate for a dog but my hubby and I both work full time so it seemed an ideal solution as the dog is (in normal times) in training when we’re at work.

“It really is the best of jobs. We love each and every one of the dogs we have had; we’re still in touch with Marky and his new family and we feel so proud seeing what he’s achieved and how he’s improved the life of a young boy with autism and that of his family.

“And thank goodness for Buddy getting us out walking in these lockdowns!”

Support Dogs are looking for foster families with children aged between two and 12 years old, preferably with some dog experience and who live in a commutable distance to its training centre in Sheffield.

There are no costs involved, as the charity pay for all the food, equipment, and vet visits. Homes with an existing older pet dog are considered subject to an evaluation by their team.

 For more information on Support Dogs’ family foster carers and how to apply go to: