Helen Harper and Jay Elcock have become the first people in the
UK to achieve a prestigious Kennel Club teaching qualification for
their work in training assistance dogs.
Helen, aged 32, and Jay, aged 31, are the first people to become
Kennel Club Accredited Instructors in Assistance Dogs after
successfully completing the qualification offered by the Kennel
Club Accreditation Scheme for Instructors in Dog Training and
Canine Behaviour (KCAI).
Helen has worked as an independent dog trainer and behaviourist
for 14 years and currently works as an instructor for Dogs for the
Disabled, helping people with disabilities gain greater
independence. This isn't Helen's first KCAI accreditation as
she was one of the youngest people ever to achieve the prestigious
KCAI accreditation for Companion Dogs in 2012 at the age of 30.
Jay works in the training team at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People,
and since joining the KCAI scheme she has progressed to senior dog
trainer and is now a training team leader at the charity's head
office in Buckinghamshire. Jay started on the KCAI scheme with a
small group of her colleagues from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and
the charity has worked closely with the Kennel Club to develop the
assistance dogs accreditation module.
Speaking about her latest accreditation, Helen said: "I feel
privileged and honoured to be one of the first Kennel Club
Accredited Instructors in Assistance Dogs in the country. I'm happy
to be part of an accredited body and the benefits it will bring. In
this ever-growing industry, with more and more people who are not
formally qualified, I hope this will allow people to make the best
possible choice when choosing a trainer.
"It was a great goal to work towards and it's fantastic to be
one of the first. I just hope others out there in the industry
decide to gain an accreditation in assistance dogs as it is a great
scheme and it is very rewarding when an external body recognises
Jay commented: "I am incredibly proud to be one of the first
assistance dog accredited instructors. I am very grateful to
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People for all of their support and
also to the various people at the Kennel Club who help make
the scheme run so smoothly. I think it is fantastic to have
an industry led accreditation for all the hard work and dedication
that working in this field requires. The Kennel Club has been
great all the way and I'd like to especially thank my assessor
Di Morgan for her support during the day of my observation."
As part of their accreditation, Helen and Jay were observed
handling and training an assistance dog and observed working with
two clients along with their dogs. The clients were at differing
levels of ability and Helen and Jay offered constructive advice on
how to go through the stages of training, how to deal with
potential problems and how to work with the dog. The clients were
assisted where necessary and were given extensive support to ensure
that they progressed and gained confidence.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: "This national
standard for assistance dogs is a great way to recognise the hard
work and dedication of people such as Jay and Helen. We
congratulate them in their success and look forward to more
assistance dog trainers following in their footsteps.
"The unique flexibility of the KCAI means that other
organisations which represent and work with canine trainers,
advisors and behaviourists can link with the scheme and its overall
badge of quality without losing their independence, individuality
For more information on the KCAI, please visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk/training/.