Derek the yellow Labrador is six months into his training with Sheffield-based charity Support Dogs.

Staff at the organization’s training center, in Brightside, train assistance dogs for autistic children, adults with epilepsy, and adults with serious physical conditions such as multiple Sclerosis or cerebral palsy. Derek’s trainer, Lottie Barlow, says he would be perfect for the charity’s epilepsy alert program, which trains dogs to be able to detect a seizure up to one hour before it happens.

Lottie said: “He is so loving and affectionate – his favorite thing is to be with his people. “He is absolutely obsessed with me. Within three weeks, Emily, Derek’s puppy coordinator, didn’t get a look in.

“He is very clingy, which is why he’s perfect for the seizure alert program – when they go to a seizure alert program client, they are with that person 24/7, they do not leave their side.” She added: “He is a very quick learner, and if he gets food for completing a task, even better.” There is good news for Derek – he has been successfully matched with a client on Support Dogs’ waiting list.

Having a dog that can detect a seizure coming on can enable the person to get to somewhere safe and comfortable, preventing them from injuring themselves during a seizure.

When not in training, Derek, who turns two in August, is looked after by volunteer foster care, who Lottie says “love the bones of him – they absolutely adore him”.
Derek was named in memory of the husband of a supporter of the charity.

Lottie, who has been a trainer with the charity for two years, says Derek’s favorite food is cheese, though she adds: “He will eat absolutely anything – he is very much a typical Labrador in that he loves his food.” Derek, who is Lottie’s eighth dog in training, has just passed his second assessment, so he is past the half-way mark of the course. His skills are being tweaked before he moves over to Support Dogs’ instructors in September, pending him passing his assessments, who will hone his skills and tailor them to be bespoke to the client’s needs.

Lottie is currently working on how Derek handles being on public transport, and then they will cover different public spaces.

Support Dogs is recruiting volunteer puppy socializers to help provide a loving home for dogs in training like Derek. Please visit for more details.


Source:, Angela Furniss