More than a dozen canine companions have been selected as part of the National Police Wellbeing Service to provide light relief for staff at South Yorkshire Police.
Latest research suggests that dogs reduce stress and anxiety by naturally lowering cortisone levels, alongside releasing a hormone called oxytocin which promotes trust and affection.
Once the dogs have undergone training, they can be deployed to meetings and de-briefs following serious incidents, to help get people talking after traumatic events. They also regularly visit teams across the force.
While the person is engaged with the dog, the owner is placed to listen to enable difficult conversations and signpost colleagues to further mental health support if required.
Chief Constable Lauren Poultney said: “Our police officers and staff work incredibly hard to keep our communities safe, and will often be exposed to danger, trauma and stress in their line of duty.
“In recent years, police forces nationwide have recognised the value of dogs in helping the workforce with their wellbeing.
“When a dog scampers into a room, the atmosphere instantly changes and people want to fuss over the dog.
“It is an incredibly simple but effective way of encouraging our teams to open up when they’re having a difficult time.
“I am a dog lover myself and the proud owner of two boisterous characters, so I know first-hand the genuine positivity that a dog can create just by being friendly and non-judgemental.”
The wellbeing and trauma support dogs are part of the ‘OK9’ branch of Oscar Kilo, the Police Wellbeing Service. Plans are in place to get more caring canines signed up soon.
This is only part of the wellbeing support offered to police officers and staff at SYP.
They also have access to a variety of other initiatives including their Occupational Health Unit; a Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) process; more than 150 trained Wellbeing Champions; a mental health app tailored specifically to police officers and staff and a 24-hour phone line.
Watch a video of the new recruits here.