Medium and message: Canine Partners

Disability charity Canine Partners cooperated with the BBC on a documentary about disruptive teens.

In 2005, the BBC approached Canine Partners, a charity that trains dogs to assist people who have disabilities, with an unusual idea - a programme about getting disruptive teenagers to face up to their problems by learning to train dogs. Dog House, the resulting three-part documentary series, which started on BBC1 on 11 April, marked the charity's first major TV appearance.

"Before this, we hadn't really been in a position to be on television other than for 30-second slots on the news," says Karen O'Donoghue, deputy director of fundraising at Canine Partners. "Like many charities, we tend to use the press for raising awareness because it's less time-consuming."

The series followed five unruly teens as they learned how to train dogs to retrieve objects, open doors, call lifts and even empty a washing machine.

O'Donoghue says: "The programme was always about the children, but because the subject is quite engaging it means we could talk about our work in ways we're not normally able to."

Since the first programme, the charity has received numerous phone calls and emails enquiring about its work.

"We're a small, young charity, but we hope the documentary will help us become a household name," says O'Donoghue.

So would Canine Partners do it all again? "Yes, but probably not immediately," says O'Donoghue. "It does take up a lot of time and you have to focus on your core activities."

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