Dogs to be used to combat poor mental health in policing

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service this week launches its new national Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs network.

The evidence proving the physical benefits of having a dog is well documented. Emerging research shows many ways in which dogs can provide support with mental health, creating a sense of calm, improving daily emotional and psychological stresses, and helping people to deal with the impact of a traumatic event.

The aim of this new national network is to have effective, professional, wellbeing dog resources available for as many police forces as possible, where the standards are high and maintained at the right level of consistency to support officers and staff in a safe and effective way.

Sgt Garry Botterill, Oscar Kilo lead for the Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs, said, “When a dog is introduced into the workplace, the atmosphere immediately changes and people want to interact with him or her. 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.

“The enthusiasm of the people who are championing wellbeing in their home force is absolutely infectious and we are getting superb feedback from all over the country about how effective dogs are at helping colleagues.”

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

Andy Rhodes, Director for the National Police Wellbeing Service, said, “One of the roles of the National Police Wellbeing Service is to support the thriving network of frontline practitioners who, on top of a busy day job, bring great ideas to life. The Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs are a perfect example and we are delighted to help Garry and his team spread the benefits across policing.”

Sussex Police Chief Constable Jo Shiner, National Lead for Wellbeing Dogs, stated, “The introduction of the OK9 network is helping forces up and down the country to initiate their own Wellbeing Dog schemes. We have seen the positive difference it makes and we want all our hard working officers and staff to have the opportunity to benefit from the Wellbeing Dogs and Trauma Support Dogs Group.”

If a police force is interested in getting involved, they should email

To find out more about the programme visit the Oscar Kilo Website