Ten years ago Julie Hancox had the dream of raising and training dogs suitable to assist children and adults with disabilities, with her husband Ric on their Ngutunui property.

Now Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust (ADNZ) runs a successful breeding programme and provides the opportunity for independence and as normal a life as possible for members of the public who have autism, diabetes, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and many other neurological and physical disabilities.

ADNZ is a registered charitable trust and an internationally accredited organisation with Assistance Dogs International, which is what gives its dogs the right to public access the same as a guide dog for the sight impaired.

Breeding and raising dogs that have the physical and temperamental traits necessary to reach the high standard required to become an Assistance Dog isn't the easiest thing to do.


ADNZ is not just dealing with the breeding, familiarising and training of these four pawed friends.

There's also coming up with the $60,000 necessary to raise and train an assistance dog before it can be placed.

Here's where the Waikato based breeding centre and kennels comes in.

A new litter of pups has recently been born to proud mum Frankie, one of the Assistance Dogs brood bitches.

It is Frankie's second litter and every litter is given a letter of the alphabet and all the puppies are given a name beginning with that letter. This litter is the J litter — Jack, Jill and Jojo.

Frankie's previous litter, the W litter, had one pup called Waitomo — named after sponsors Waitomo Fuel — and Wiggles.

Waitomo and Wiggles were born in December last year and are now out in public, living with volunteer families who not only teaching them manners, but also familiarising them to all the environments they might meet once they are trained and working.

Puppy raisers take a puppy into their hearts and their homes, socialise and familiarising the young dogs in a range of environments and situations of everyday life to prepare the puppies for training.

Once the puppies reach the age of 12 to 18 months they are assessed and formerly trained.

The training takes between four to eight months, depending on the specific disability they will be destined to support.

Assistance Dogs are specifically trained for the unique needs and disability of each individual client.

Prior to 2011 ADNZ relied on dogs that were donated or came from the SPCA.

Then two labrador pups were donated and the bitch, Bella, was kept for breeding.

Julie says it was the start of ADNZ's own breeding programme, which has proved successful, using labrador retrievers and golden retrievers — and crosses between the two breeds. Bella has recently been retired.

Anybody with a disability can apply for an assistance dog.

Julie says there are many families around New Zealand with complex needs who would benefit from an assistance dog and are currently on a waiting list.

It all starts with a litter of puppies who may not know it at the moment, but soon they could be helping those in need around New Zealand.

There are a range of options for the public to assist the programme — for more details or to donate www.assistancedogstrust.org.nz