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Oscar Kilo 9: Wellbeing and Trauma Support dogs

The Oscar Kilo wellbeing and trauma support dogs service aims to build on local police wellbeing dog services and make wellbeing dogs available to all forces who wish to introduce a dog as part of their wellbeing provision.

On this page, you will find out all about the wellbeing and trauma support dogs, meet our recruits and find out what makes them tick.

What are wellbeing and trauma support dogs?

Police officers and staff do a demanding and sometimes dangerous job, and in many roles are frequently exposed to trauma. Over recent years, police forces around the country have recognised the value of dogs in helping officers and staff with their wellbeing. 

When a dog is introduced to the workplace, the atmosphere immediately changes and people want to interact with the dog. During this time together, they share oxytocin, a hormone that engenders affection, trust, and a sense of security. It helps naturally lower cortisone levels and in doing so reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. 

These interactive sessions provide light relief from the rigors of the job and the dogs help get people talking, and create expressions of genuine feeling just by being friendly and non-judgemental. 

Wellbeing dog handlers are also mental health first aiders or trained peer supporters who are ideally placed to listen, enable difficult conversations and provide sign-posting to support if required. 

 

How Oscar Kilo became involved

The project initially began with a handful of police forces reporting the difference their wellbeing dogs were making to their officers and staff. This led to the creation of the national OK9 network which currently has over 100 OK9 accredited wellbeing and trauma support dogs and representation from 30 UK police forces and fire and rescue services across the country.  

This network is growing daily as more forces and services see the benefits the dogs bring. Those involved are passionate about helping colleagues through this form of peer support and hold monthly meetings that promote the sharing of best practice.  It is clear that these dogs are having a huge impact on the people they are working with and the feedback so far has been outstanding!  The OK9 scheme has been made as accessible as possible so that we can help more forces and services set it up within their individual organisations.

We have developed the national network to to build on the knowledge gained and provide national guidance making it easier for forces to introduce a dog as part of their wellbeing provision.

 

How does it work?

Forces who already have a wellbeing dog can apply to become a member of the national OK9 wellbeing and trauma support dog network. The handlers of these dogs should be trained peer supporters or mental health first aiders, but where this isn’t the case, we will offer specialised training through our Oscar Kilo peer support programme to support this.

After the force signs our service level agreement and the dog passes our OK9 suitability assessment test, they can become part of this group and we also ask that they agree to be available for deployment nationally in the event of a major incident.

The OK9 Lead will assist the force or service through the process of getting set up and will be on hand to answer any questions, attend meetings and provide all the information that may be required.  This is usually achieved by linking in with the Wellbeing Lead of each force or other designated people.

All forces and services receive a high level of ongoing support with every aspect of the OK9 role, this includes branded jackets and badges, certificates of accreditation, CPD days, virtual and actual meetings, a members area with training, assessment and enrichment guides and other useful information for OK9 peer supporters.

The OK9 lead will coordinate the OK9 response to support colleagues around the country in the event of a major incident – or to attend national events and work with our wellbeing outreach service (the wellbeing vans).

All dogs in the group are scrutinised by an animal welfare scheme and have comprehensive risk assessments and insurance in place.

 

Can I book a dog to visit my force?

The National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS) do not hold their own wellbeing dogs.

The purpose of the wellbeing and trauma support dog project is to assist forces to develop their own wellbeing dog scheme so they have the capability for the dog to support their people. While we will have a mutual aid capability we rely on forces joining the group and sharing resources when there is a pressing need. We are able to assist forces in getting their scheme up and running.

If you feel your force could benefit from a visit from an OK9 following a serious incident or at a large scale event please get in touch and we’ll try to help by co-ordinating a suitable OK9 wellbeing and trauma support dog response.

Want to know more? 

If you are interested in finding out more about OK9 wellbeing and trauma support dogs or want to get your force involved please email us for full details.

Contact us

OK9 member page

This member page is for the OK9 wellbeing and trauma support dog handlers only. It contains digital forms, resources, and up to date information on the project.

To gain access you must create an Oscar Kilo account using the login area at the top right of this website. Once you have an account, email us using the contact us button below and we will give you access to the page. You can then use button below to enter the member area.

Creating an account also gives you access to lots of other resources only available to people working in UK policing.

If you need further support or don't have a .police.uk email address please get in touch.   

Contact us

Enter OK9 member page

March 2022

Luis

Thames Valley Police

Find out about what Luis has been up to and meet the previous dogs of the month.

Go to dog of the month