About Us

About Lead the Way Institute

Lead the Way Australia, based in Melbourne, Victoria, was the first organisation in Australia to begin training dog and handler teams in the art and science of animal assisted interactions (AAI). Since our first training programme back in 2006 we have watched the field grow and develop to receive the wonderful recognition and respect that it now holds. Our dedicated team are highly experienced and qualified in their fields. We pride ourselves on staying at the forefront of science and research, ensuing we can bring you the most up to date, comprehensive, relevant and effective training programmes in the country. 

Our Training

Our dog training philosophy is based on the pillars of science, welfare and safety. We are positive reinforcement trainers with a comprehensive background in canine welfare science. We hold a range of national and international qualifications, accreditations and certifications, and are continuously updating and upgrading our qualifications. Our team is actively involved in the development of modern welfare assessment tools for AAI that are effective and easy to implement. Our work in human psychology and interpersonal neurobiology allow us to bring a unique understanding to our work with dogs, and our work with the human-animal bond.

Throughout our courses, teams are introduced to our unique training system, developed and refined over more than two decades, and informed by the best science and experience can offer. We introduce dogs to learning in a fun and interactive way, based largely in shaping games, which allow the development of core skills such as concentration, thinking and problem solving, listening and self control – all whilst setting positive precedents. We then move our dogs on to the development of social skills, and conditioning to the human world, whilst being supported and co-regulated by their handlers. As they move into more specific therapy focussed training, they learn greater levels of attunement with their handler, focus, self regulation and importantly, reliability in both obedience and manners. At this point in their training, our dogs are working reliably for relationaly-based (social) rewards. This means that once you enter a work place with your dog, you’re not solely dependent on the use of food, toys or activities to maintain their motivation or focus. No team is certified to enter a workplace setting if there is evidence of either safety or welfare concerns for dogs or humans.

Our Affiliations

We are proud to have been granted full membership of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO). Our team is actively involved in the development of Australian standards with Animal Therapies Limited (ATL), and via research with the University of Melbourne and Orygen, the Centre for Youth Mental Health. Our director, Melanie, is an active participant in research and development committees in AAI, and guest lectures on the topic for La Trobe University. We are an approved provider of evidence-based clinical and training services via the Victorian Government’s Schools Mental Health Menu Fund.

Please note we have not been affiliated with any other dog training company since 2018, and we do not endorse or support any other dog training companies, nor any punishment based training methods. Dog and handler teams are required to update their training annually, and may be using outdated methods or systems if this has not occured.

Our Team

Melanie G. Jones Director

Melanie G Jones is a psychologist, animal-assisted therapist (AAT) and the director of Lead the Way. She is also a senior canine behavioural trainer, with extensive experience in therapy- and therapeutic-dog training and certification. Since 2002 Melanie has studied, worked, and taught in the field of animal-assisted interactions (AAI).

Melanie is also actively involved in research and development of AAI and AAT. For a list of Melanie’s published work, please see her Linked In profile here.

Kim Hallworth Training Manager

Kim is a qualified animal scientist, senior canine behavioural trainer with international certification (CPDT-KA) and pastoral care worker. She works as Lead The Way’s senior therapeutic dog trainer. With extensive experience in dog training and management of dog training kennels and services, Kim oversees much of the development of our courses and classes for therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and assistance dogs.  Kim is also trained in providing care and support (including AAI) to individuals experiencing trauma and disadvantage, giving her a unique perspective on the power of the human-animal bond.

Tanya Glasson Operations Manager

Tanya works as Lead The Way’s operations manager. She is a qualified veterinary nurse, senior canine behavioural trainer, and practice manager with over 10 years experience training dogs from puppy school to social rehabilitation. In addition to her dog-training and management roles, Tanya develops and delivers the canine health and first aid modules on our courses.

Denise Warmington Trainer & Therapist

Denise is a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse and animal assisted therapist, and professional dog trainer. Denise is also completing additional qualifications in assistance dog training. Denise provides dog-training support on courses, mental health support to clients individually (via our clinic) and via therapeutic dog training in our WellPaws programme. 

Natalie Ladesic Receptionist & Dog Trainer

Natalie is a qualified veterinary nurse, practice manager, and senior canine behavioural trainer. Natalie has over 10 years experience in practice management, whilst also developing a successful dog-training business.

Natalie provides administrative and training support to Lead The Way.

Jodee Vella Therapist & Trainee

Jodee is a qualified counsellor working towards Practitioner Certification in Animal Assisted Therapy. She works alongside her therapy dog Ranger providing support to clients in the clinic. Jodee is also a nationally qualified dog trainer, and is completing a traineeship with Lead The Way in Therapeuitc Dog Training. Jodee provides training support on courses and in the WellPaws programme.

Jess Staaf Dog Trainer

Jess is a professional dog trainer with over 10 years experience in the sector. In addition to her day job in management, Jess assists us in classes and on courses.

Emma Antoniadis Receptionist

Emma is a highy experienced receptionist and practice manager who works with us from Wednesdays to Fridays, supporting both the clinic and the institute.

Lead the Way Psychology Clinics

Child, Adolescent and Family Counselling & Psychology Services

In 2009 the Psychology Clinic opened, providing psychological counselling and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) to children, adolescents and families. The Clinic, located in Boronia, provides quality clinical services to those in need across Melbourne’s east, including the Dandenong Ranges. We provide clients with the opportunity to work with a range of Therapy Animals, including dogs, cats, horses and even a rabbit!

For more information, or to book an appointment, please visit our Psychology Clinic Website www.leadtheway.com.au