MEET Paisley - a very special puppy with a very special role in life.

The Golden Retriever is being trained by young men at HMP YOI Polmont as part of the Paws For Progress scheme.

But not only is the dog helping with mental health and wellbeing in the young offenders institution, she is also preparing to go on to another vital role.

Once the young men in Polmont have finished her socialisation training, she will become a Bravehound - paired with a veteran living with PTSD.

June McPhillips, Training Officer from Paws for Progress, said: "I had been volunteering for Bravehound for a while when I found I was in a position to become a puppy socialiser, which could have wider mutual benefits through involving Paisley in Paws for Progress.

"Paisley loves attending our training sessions at HMP YOI Polmont, and the young people get a great sense of achievement knowing that through Paisley they are helping to better the lives of those who have served their country."

For the last 10 years young people at HMP YOI Polmont have been taking part in an innovative rescue dog training programme which aims to rehabilitate them and their canine companions.

Paisley as a puppy

Paisley as a puppy

Run by Paws for Progress, in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service, young people are paired with a rescue dog looking for a new home.

They become the dog’s dedicated handler and focus their efforts on helping the dog to be rehomed.

The Paws for Progress team of staff dogs - AKA Ambassadogs - also play a key role in enabling the young men to develop the positive reinforcement dog training skills that they need to help the rescue dogs.

Now, for the first time, some of the young men are getting the chance to help train a specialist support dog for the Lennonxtown-based charity Bravehound.

Bravehound provides dogs to support veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), other mental health conditions, and physical injuries.

Nine-month-old Paisley is funded and named by the Paisley branch of the Royal British Legion.

Over the last six months Paisley has attended the Paws for Progress training programmes at HMP YOI Polmont alongside the team of Ambassadogs, helping her become a well-rounded dog ready to head into life with her veteran.

She has been learning skills including being able to settle while ignoring distractions, food manners, and being on the lead.

The young people love training and supporting Paisley towards her future role, giving them a purpose and valuable sense of achievement.

Bravehounds are trained to cope with all kinds of situations.

As well as, for instance, picking up when someone is in distress and bringing them immediate comfort, they are taught skills like bringing medication and ensuring that people respect a veteran's personal space by physically blocking the way if someone comes too close.

For many who cannot leave their home unaccompanied owing to the effects of PTSD, the dogs offer a new lease of life, opening up social and employment opportunities.

June and Paisley

June and Paisley

Several veterans have told the charity that they “would not still be here if it were not for this dog.”

Fiona MacDonald, the founder of Bravehound said: "We are delighted to be partnering with Paws for Progress for this project.

"Bravehound provides dogs which play a crucial part in the recovery of men and women traumatised by their experiences during military service.

"Knowing that Paisley is making such a difference to even more lives makes us incredibly proud.

"Not only are these young men helping Paisley by assisting with her initial training, she is helping them.

"Paisley is, amongst other things, contributing to positive mental health and well-being and this has become increasingly important since the project has been ongoing during lockdown.

"We are so grateful for the support of the Paisley branch of the Royal British Legion and to June and all of our fantastic puppy-socialisers."