A PRISON-BASED dog rescue programme in Stirling has joined in on World Animal Day this week to highlight the amazing stories of animals and humans coming together.

Paws for Progress, a Stirling based rehabilitation community interest organisation, is the UK's first prison-based dog rescue programme helping young offenders learn valuable skills.

The skills and training programme works at HMYOI Polmont and has expanded thanks to a £150,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Suzanne Ruby, operations manager at Paws for Progress, initially got involved with the project as a psychology student with the University of Stirling.

She said: “We've got the people and the dog side of it so it's incredible.

“We take rescue dogs who are struggling to find homes and take them into the prison and pair them up with young people there.

“We teach young people how to train the dogs using positive reinforcement so it's all about being kind and empathetic to the dogs and rewarding them for getting it right rather than telling them off for getting it wrong.

“It's all about rewarding them and building on their skills and strengths rather than dwelling on the negatives or things they have done wrong in the past so it’s incredibly powerful to help both the dogs and the young people.”

Since 2011, Paws for Progress has worked with hundreds of dogs and young people.

The purpose of the project is to unleash potential and improve lives by providing services centred on the beneficial effects of people and dogs learning together.

With increasing demand, funding from the National Lottery has proved vital in helping Paws for Progress run smoothly, especially throughout the pandemic.

Suzanne added: “The National Lottery have been one of our key funders for many, many years.

“They have given us a significant amount towards running the project at Polmont - the rescue dog training programme.

“Their funding has made it possible for this to all happen. It's the large multiyear grants that give us that bit of security and can help so many people - and dogs too.”