Advanced Certification for Therapy Dogs and Handlers
Level Four – Advanced Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification
Optional – MultiDog Group and Handler
This Certification level is ideal for working CAI professionals to develop advanced skills in facilitating off-lead, interactive and play-based interventions with their clients or students. It provides teams with a toolkit of interactions across the four NB-AAI domains of relational, educational, self-regulatory and sensory-motor. Handlers develop skills in facilitating goal-directed interventions and dogs are certified to work off lead in complex environments.
Learn with the best!
On this 3-day intensive course handlers practice and workshop interactions in accordance with the Neurobiological Model, learning to develop targeted interventions in line with the needs of their clients or students. Teams are challenged to work in complex environments incorporating tricks and agility.
At this level, graduates are competent to develop and deliver creative interactions. The dog is assessed as being highly responsive and can work off lead with clients. At this level, teams can deliver a wide variety of creative interventions that meet client goals, even within complex environments.
Mode: In person, Melbourne Australia
Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level Three. Handlers must have a current working with children’s check or equivalent. Dogs must meet suitability criteria (see below)
Duration: 2.5-day intensive practicum & assessment (Thursday, Friday and Friday evening)
Access: Enrol in your preferred dates via the application form below
This course builds on the theoretical foundations established during Level Three. The 3-day intensive practicum runs live in Melbourne Australia, incorporating workshopping, advanced assessments, and a community visit. There is a focus on developing ‘off lead’ communication and reliability in increasingly challenging scenarios, such as when the dog is in play drive, or interacting with other dogs. Handlers are encouraged to workshop creative intervention ideas, incorporating tricks and small agility into interactions. Teams will have the opportunity to participate in creative interactions during the Advanced community visit (Friday evening), where dogs work off lead engaging in activities with children/young people (and their carers where necessary).
We recommend that students give themselves on average 2 months between attending Level Three and Level Four to ensure the team has consolidated their communication, training, socialisation and working partnership prior to assessment.
Level Three – Advanced Theory and Preparation
Current Certification as a Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team with competence in all domains
Dogs must continue to meet the Therapy Dog Suitability Criteria as outlined below. Dogs must be safe to work off lead with other dogs and people in the presence of food and toys.
2.5 day intensive
Level Four: Advanced Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification
This intensive practicum runs face to face in Melbourne on Thursday, Friday and Friday evening. It incorporates the team assessments required for Advanced Certification. Students workshop a range of interactions, and together with other course participants develop a goal-focussed intervention which is delivered to a diverse group of children/young people on the Friday evening. Dogs must be working well with their handlers, and have consolidated their off lead skills prior to commencing Level Four.
- Advanced Off lead dog training refresh and extend workshop
- Advanced inter dog socialisation lecture and workshop
- Integrating tricks and agility in CAI workshop
- Aligning NB-AAI model with creating interventions workshop
- Development of goal-focussed creative Interventions
- Community Visits
- Course conclusion and future directions
- Develop ‘off-lead’ communication & reliability with the therapy dog during training and interactions
- Demonstrate competence in trick training and an understanding of how tricks may be used during canine assisted interactions
- Demonstrate competence in the use of small agility equipment and an understanding of how this may be used in CAI
- Use advanced socialisation concepts to effectively manage the therapy dog in drive, including play drive and inter-dog socialisation
- Temperament, handling and behaviour assessments in complex settings off lead.
- Use the Neurobiological Model to develop and deliver CAI in simulations and scenarios with other course participants
- Covid permitting Community Visit: In collaboration with other course participants, develop and deliver a goal focussed intervention for diverse children demonstrating:
- Active engagement between the therapy dog and a ‘client’ during a creative interaction, whilst off lead
- Be able to name the NB-AAI ‘Degree of Directivity’ and ‘Interaction Domain’ being used
- Demonstrate appropriate off lead handling, communication and supervision of the dog to ensure mutually beneficial and rewarding interactions
Participants and their dogs must attend all components of the 2.5-day practicum and assessment in order to demonstrate adequate competency for Advanced Certification. Handler and dog teams can not be granted Advanced Certification if any part of the practicum is missed. Should any component not be completed for any reason, participants would be required to re-enrol and re-sit the practicum in order to achieve Advanced Certification. Fees Apply
Recognition of prior learning (RPL)
Please note that RPL is not available for competency assessments, and as such Level Four IS NOT subject to RPL for new handlers.
Assessment and Certification
Assessments for Advanced Team Certification are based on skills and competency demonstrated over the duration of the course, including scenarios, simulations, role-plays and community visits.
Please note that teams MUST pass the behavioural, handling and role-play assessments prior to being able to attend the final workplace assessment (community visit). Aggressive or otherwise dangerous reactions from a dog will result in a grade of ‘not suitable’ for therapy work. Out of control or fearful/avoidant behaviour will result in a grade of ‘not yet competent’ and recommendations for ongoing training or rehabilitation will be provided. Teams who have been working but are then deemed not suitable or not yet competent must cease working with clients immediately. Advanced Dogs are expected to work safely in the presence of other dogs, whilst off lead, must be responsive in complex and challenging environments (e.g. when playing or with other dogs/animals), and must be able to conduct all human-animal interactions whilst off lead. Dogs who are unable to achieve this standard may be granted Visiting Team Certification at the Foundation level Two.
Teams who are ‘not yet competent’ on the final day of the course will not be permitted to attend community visits on the Friday night. Teams graded at the Foundation level 2 may be allowed to attend community visits on lead/with restrictions, at the discretion of the trainers. Teams needing to re-sit the assessment may re-enrol in the assessment course again at a later date, or may enrol in the (Re)Certifcation Day (subject to availability and staff recommendation). Fees apply.
Advanced Team Certification remains current for 1 year for adult and adolescent dogs (aged 1 year and over), and 6 months for puppies (aged 8-12 months). Certification may be removed at any stage if your dog fails to meet the Suitability Requirements. (Re)Certification days are held four times a year. Teams with current certification will be listed on the Lead The Way Institute Directory page.
Please note certification standards are regularly updated in accordance with best practice guidelines, and recommendations from the International Society of Animal Assisted Therapy (ISAAT) and the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO) Guidelines.
- Dog and handler teams who have current (up to date) Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification at Level Two and have completed Level Three – Advanced Theory and Preparation.
- Teams must be competent in all domains1, and should feel confident that they have consolidated their on and off lead training. For more information, see When is my Dog Ready for Advanced?
- Experience in working or visiting together as a team is an advantage
- There is no time limit between completing step three (course preparation) and step four (Advanced Team Certification). On average, most people will spend at least two months consolidating their skills between levels.
- People and dogs should not suffer from any health or medical conditions which would negatively impact their ability to participate in intensive training
- Dog’s must have an up to date Visiting Therapy Dog Brief Veterinary Health Screen (will be emailed) (within the past 6 months).
- Dogs must continue to meet the suitability criteria listed in the Visiting Therapy Dog Suitability Checklist (see below)
- Dogs must be safe to work in close proximity to other dogs in complex off lead environments (e.g. around food, toys, play, animals)
- Please ensure you read the terms and conditions of enrolment on the application form
1Please note that mild separation anxiety is not exclusionary for this course, provided this can be shown not to impact the dog’s capacity to work; e.g. the dog can be left alone in familiar places, or can be left with a trusted Secondary Handler/support person if necessary during a work day without distress.
Please note: All of our courses are delivered in English, requiring a high level of written and spoken English language skills, including discipline specific terminology. Recommended proficiency level is C1 – Advanced (proficient)
Visiting Therapy Dog Suitability Checklist
All dogs must provide proof of a current C5 vaccination and parasite control (fleas/worms). If your dog works as your assistance or service dog, you must contact us prior to enrolling. Visiting therapy dogs must not engage in activities that promote aggression to people (e.g., protection or guard dog work or training), or to animals (e.g., hunting, herding or fighting).
Visiting Therapy-Dog Suitability Checklist
Use the following checklist as a handy reference guide:
- My dog is part of my life and my household, e.g. comes into the house, participates in activities. They have lived with me for 3 months or longer, and I know them well. I can confidently answer the checklist questions
- My dog is comfortable meeting strangers (e.g. in the park or the street), and shows this by approaching or seeking attention if allowed
- My dog is happy when we have visitors come to the home, and seeks attention from them
- My dog likes children
- My dog likes elderly or disabled people
- My dog is not fearful of cars, bikes, trolleys, skate-boards or other moving objects
- My dog is not fearful of stairs, shiny floors, elevators, lights, fans or other typical environments
- My dog enjoys being patted, touched and cuddled by strangers
- My dog can be left alone at times without becoming distressed or destructive
- I can leave my dog tied up or tethered in a safe location for brief periods without them becoming distressed or destructive
- My dog will happily go off with a friend or family member without me, without becoming distressed
- My dog is reliably toilet trained, and does not ‘mark’ inappropriate objects/furniture indoors or outdoors
- My dog enjoys outings and novel activities, for example visiting a new person or place
- My dog is generally willing to comply with requests, even if unsure or nervous (e.g. tolerates grooming, being taken off/sharing their bed, having a toy or treat taken away, visiting the vet, being checked over or having a wound looked at) without growling or becoming fearful
- down (even if only informally at home) without resistance or aversion. (Note: dogs should have received basic training prior to attending a Certification course)
- My dog will cope with being in a room with other dogs (on-lead) and learning obedience in close proximity to other dogs without growling, lunging or becoming fearful
- My dog is fit and healthy enough to travel to a workplace and engage physically with strangers
- My dog is fully vaccinated and treated for parasites (e.g. fleas, worms) by a licensed Veterinarian
- My dog has NO untreated or unstable medical conditions
- My dog is NOT afraid of strangers, and does not growl at or avoid strangers, e.g. men in hats, toddlers running, people carrying equipment or making odd noises etc.
- My dog does not ‘mouth’ (place mouth or teeth on people) even in play (including puppies)
- My dog is NOT aggressive towards other animals such as small animals, cats, native animals (e.g. possums/birds) chooks, ponies or farm animals e.g. enjoys their company, is inquisitive (even excitable), or is indifferent (does not chase/hunt)
- My dog does NOT have any obvious fears or phobias (e.g. thunderstorms, electrical equipment, vacuums, cleaning chemical smells)
- I do NOT have any concerns about the way my dog interacts, and I feel s/he would genuinely enjoy physical contact with strangers, including being hugged and picked up
- My dog does NOT engage in activities that promote aggression to people (e.g. guard or protection training) or to animals (e.g. hunting, herding, or fighting)
- My dog does NOT perform a life-saving alerting function for me or another person (e.g. medical alert dog, PTSD service dog, Autism service dog) which would represent a potential conflict for the dog during client work
- My dog has NEVER bitten or attempted to bite a person
Optional – Advanced MultiDog Group and Handler Certification
An Advanced Certified handler may choose to work with two (or more) dogs in a Multi-Dog group. Only one dog in the group is permitted to be working at the Foundational level (Learner Dog or Certified Visiting Therapy Dog). The remainder of the dogs must be working at the Advanced off-lead standard.
Access and Pricing
Multi-Dog groups are assessed at a (Re)Certification day.