The dogs visit Bellsdyke Hospital every Monday where they interact with patients in Trystpark, Trystview and Russell Park.
Patients are encouraged to groom the dogs, while their new four-legged friends are trained to sit and offer a paw.
There are plans to begin using agility equipment to put the dogs – and their new friends – through their paces.
The dogs all belong to members of Stirling Dog Behaviour Centre at Bandeath Industrial Estate near Throsk. They are trained by Ann Watt who helped set up a charity known as Paws for Autism.
Dogs Winnie, Toby and Cara are all family members and Coco is training to become a service dog to help a youngster with autism.
Coco’s ‘Mum’ Shona Costelloe said bringing a dog into the life of her autistic son has been so successful she wants to share this positive outcome within the community.
She said: “My son has no road safety awareness, so if it’s not safe for Coco to do, it’s not safe for him. If he disappears at all Coco won’t let him out of her sight and will track him down for me.
“We’ve been teaching him friendship through Coco. This took about ten months to develop but if Coco doesn’t like his behaviour she will walk away from him. This tells him that if other children don’t like what he’s doing, they will walk away
Kathleen Brown, deputy Charge Nurse at Trystview, said: “It brightens our patients’ day and makes them smile. Bringing dogs to Bellsdyke is invaluable and after the visit our patients are so cheerful and more relaxed in themselves. It’s a great idea and a really good service.”
The charity Paws for Autism believe they’re the first in Scotland to train family dogs to do what service dogs do, and say they would welcome enquiries from any other organisation which believes a visit would be beneficial.
Anyone interested in finding out more should contact Shona Costelloe at [email protected]