IT’S fair to say that Britain is a nation of dog lovers.

From Chihuahuas to Great Danes, we love them all as pets – and they also play a vital role in our society.

More than 2,500 dogs are employed by police forces across the country, while the Army’s 1st Military Working Dog Regiment has 384 working dogs.

Both these figures are dwarfed, however, by the 7,000 people who rely on their assistance dogs, which help with practical tasks, offer emotional support, and increase independence – and that figure could be set to rise even higher.

Veterans with Dogs is a new charity that was set up to train fully accredited assistance dogs to help mitigate the symptoms of mental health difficulties for former servicemen and women.

The dogs also help to combat isolation, which the charity say is a common problem for ex-military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The charity has struck a chord with Tyne Valley veteran Johnny Brockhouse, who lives in Barrasford.

Johnny served in the local regiment, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion. His 20-year career saw him serve in the first and second Gulf wars, in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the Falklands, Kuwait, Africa and more.

He explained that military personnel and dogs had an understanding with each other.

Johnny said: “I’ve had three dogs. I didn’t get them from the charity, but the dogs I’ve had have been great for me and my adjustment to civilian life.

“I currently have a Springer Spaniel called Otto – I had a Black Labrador called Zebby, but she passed away on Boxing Day after 12 years, so that was a sad day.

“Dogs are a massive help to veterans with invisible injuries.

“Do I have mental health issues? I think every single military person who has seen combat, which I have, would be lying if they said they didn’t.

“I think dogs are great for everyone, they give you that unconditional love, support, and companionship.

“Military personnel have a good relationship with dogs, especially ones like German Shepherds and spaniels who serve in the forces and with the police. There’s a comradery there.

“This a fantastic charity that trains specially selected dogs to live with ex-military veterans who have mental health conditions as a result of their experiences in conflict.

Johnny will be taking on an ‘alternative’ marathon in May to raise money for the charity. The challenge will see him attempt to row 26.22 miles on a Concept 2 rowing machine.

Johnny added: “I usually run, cycle, or swim but I chose the rowing machine this time.

“I row a lot, and I’ve had three major knee operations – one in the military, one when I left and one more recently when I got a new knee.

“I’m hoping to do the row on May 8, which is the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

“Fund-raising is going really well – I’m aiming to raise £1,000 and I’ve already raised more than £600.”

Johnny is hoping to be able to complete his challenge in a public place in the village – although he admits it may end up being his garden.

He’s hoping that his donation will be a big boost to the fledgling charity.

He continued: “Veterans with Dogs haven’t been around for that long. There’s lots of people who are trying to get money for them and get it up and running.”

Veterans with dogs is the first charity to train assistance dogs for veterans in order to improve their quality of life.

The charity uses a unique, cutting edge programme known as partner animal life skills (PALS) to train the animals, which has been developed by animal behaviourists, experienced assistance dog trainers, mental health professionals and practitioners.

The charity explained that studies have shown introducing a specially trained assistance dog into the life of a veteran suffering from PTSD has hugely beneficial outcomes.

The dog allows the veteran to lead a more independent life, and is allowed, by law, to accompany their partner into shops, restaurants, and on to public transport.

As well as providing assistance dogs for individuals, the charity also trains and supports community dogs and their handlers. The idea is that the dogs and their handlers work to provide engagement for group-based activities, whether it is in a therapeutic environment or as part of a public engagement.

Aside from donating to Johnny’s campaign, the public can support the charity by sponsoring a puppy in training.

Donations can be made to Johnny’s campaign at, while more information can be found on Veterans with Dogs at