April 24 - The Day of the Dog

  • Integrity Blog

Today marks International Guide Dog Day and in addition to celebrating the amazing work of Guide Dogs Australia, Sport Integrity Australia recognises the equally important work of partner agency Integra Service Dogs Australia.

Founded in 2016 by veterans, Integra Service Dogs work to train and develop canines to offer vital support to Veterans and First Responders coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Having partnered with Integra Dogs since 2022, Chief Finance Officer and Integra partnership coordinator Bec Tyler, says the significant work of agencies like Integra Dogs has never been so important.

“We have seen, firsthand, the benefit that caring for and fostering the Integra dogs can have on those dealing with PTSD,” Ms Tyler says.

“Working with Integra goes hand-in-hand with our initiatives to be trauma-informed and conscious of our own mental health at Sport Integrity Australia and it’s always an exciting day when one of the foster pups comes into the office for a visit.”

A Labrador sits and wears the Integra Dogs Australia vest
Photo credit: @JBRpets

Integra Dogs Australia CEO Ben Johnson says the integral work of the organisation is done with thanks to partners like Sport Integrity Australia, who support foster programs, and Guide Dogs Australia and Vision Australia who supply the pups.

“We are so grateful for the support of Sport Integrity Australia, without whom we would not be able to do the life changing work we do with Veterans and First Responders with PTSD,” Mr Johnson says.

He says partnering with agencies like Sport Integrity Australia is vital to Integra's operations as these partnerships help to:

  • Raise awareness and advocate about the adjunct clinical role of accredited and appropriately trained assistance dogs.
  • Help with critical work, such as provision of fostering support by Sport Integrity Australia staff and families for our dogs when they are in training (prior to matching and placement with a Handler client).
  • Raise funding for Integra's operations.
  • Provide networking and introduction to other prospective partners.
  • Reinforce that the Programs managed by Integra are professional, credible and quality assured (through dealing with credible and committed external partners).

“Integra has unique partnerships with Guide Dogs Australia and Vision Australia as these two separate International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) organisations supply exceptional pedigree, genetically assured quality young Labrador dogs into our advanced training programs for further training and development as assistance dogs.”

Due to the nature of their training and work Mr Johnson says the dogs’ temperament is a crucial factor to be considered suitable for these all-important jobs.

“Integra is looking to confirm that the trainee assistance dog is calm, settled (non-reactive) in busy and noisy settings and to external stimuli and is well-socialised with other canines and humans (i.e. does not solicit attention from others),” he says.

“We are looking for young pedigree Labrador dogs that must display no signs of aggression or anxiety. We are also seeking to assess the dog's biddability (being able to be controlled and led easily and is responsive to training techniques, i.e. the young dog is a motivated and keen learner).

“We are also looking for a dog which displays affection and is comfortable with body contact as part of its activity/training (i.e. a dog that likes or seeks contact with its handler/trainer).”

Integrity Complaints Investigations Assistant Director and Integra Dog foster carer Phil Bloxham has experienced the joy and fulfilment these dogs bring to those in need.

“I’ve been fostering with Integra for just over a year, I’ve been blessed with the four amazing personalities of Tatum, Demi, Tinker and Kimchi,” Mr Bloxham says.

“They have come to our home and blended seamlessly with my family and Ace, our three-year-old Lab x German Shepherd. The extra love in our home is so important for us all and the ability to give back to Integra Service Dogs is priceless.”

Awaiting the arrival of his fifth foster pup, Mr Bloxham says that the benefits of being an Integra Dog foster carer are immeasurable and while saying goodbye to their four-legged fosters is the greatest challenge of the program, it is also the most rewarding, seeing them go off to their forever home.

“Being a Foster Carer involves after-hours care – feeding, walks, playtime and the endless cuddles,” he says.

“Thanks to the well-trained dogs and the incredible support from the Integra team, fitting fostering into our lives has been seamless. The benefits of fostering are immeasurable.

“The Integra Dogs team provides everything we need, from food to toys, and we cherish the opportunity to collaborate on training with the staff.”

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