Today’s story is dedicated to dog lovers! Our furry friends, in some cases, are much more than a great and fun company – they can learn to be of great help to some of us. Let’s find out how the Silver Centre in Croatia integrates families in their programme of raising and working with assistance dogs!

The Rehabilitation Centre Silver is an institution of social care in Croatia, which trains assistance dogs to be used in the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities and children with developmental difficulties. The Centre’s basic programmes aim to ensure autonomy, independence, and higher life quality for persons with disabilities, children with development difficulties, and their families. The founder of the Centre is the City of Zagreb.

The activities of the Silver Centre include programmes for: visually impaired persons; persons with mobility difficulties or persons who use wheelchairs; children with developmental difficulties (cerebral paralysis, autism, blindness, children at risk of neurological disorders, ADHD, etc.), persons with physical or intellectual disability, or mental disorder.

Training and assignment of assistance dogs are based on the Breeding and Puppy raising programme. Both include volunteers who take care of breeding dogs and raise puppies. Since the founding of the Silver Centre in 2008, those volunteers also include families.  Find out more about the Silver Centre HERE.

We are the Vlajčević family. We started volunteering one Christmas when we decided that instead of buying gifts we give our time to others in need. The whole family has been volunteering every day.

We do puppy socialization, take the puppy everywhere with us. Kids take the puppy to school, raise the puppy with positive methods, and see how it is more useful than having fights.

We met a lot of dear people, we help each other. At the same time, we promote volunteering, the benefits of an assistance dog, the use and movement with assistance dogs. 

We are all involved with positive energy in volunteering, parents, children, grandparents, little nieces. 

All this with a full heart and a big smile.”

Vlajčević family, Croatia

Although the family volunteers are involved for 12 years, for the last 3 years the organisation provided additional possibilities for family volunteering:

  • Puppy socialisation – Puppy raising programme includes socialisation of young puppies 2 months old – future assistance dogs who live in volunteer families until the age of 16 months. During that period, the family under the guidance of Centre Silver professionals raise the puppies and provide dog handling in accordance with assistance dog requirements. Families with children/grandparents are very welcome because puppies get used to living and being handled by different generations.
  • Advocacy of accessibility of assistance dog clients – Centre Silver teaches and supports advocacy activities to promote accessibility of assistance dog clients – which starts in puppy raising programmes, where volunteers in daily life educate and aim to increase the sensitivity of individuals and the wider public. Children educate peers in school, parents educate their work colleagues, family friends and the local environment.
  • Puppies early socialisation (3 – 6 weeks old) – is provided by trained volunteers (families) who learned how to provide very specific and gentle activities of early socialisation with puppies.
  • Promotion of volunteering – participating in the development of promo materials and activities about the Puppy raising programme and the role of assistance dogs in the life of persons with disabilities 
  • Support to other (new) volunteers – puppy raisers –  experienced family volunteers help and support new volunteers in new challenges and finding solutions in puppy raising

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