Level One

Certification Courses for Therapy Dogs & Handlers

Level One – Provisional Handler Certification & Learner Therapy Dog

This Certification level is our entry level Certification and can be completed entirely remotely OR in person (Melbourne) according to your personal preference. Level One is ideal for people who are preparing for full team Certification (Level 2), people who are supervising or managing therapy dog programmes, or those who can’t travel to Melbourne, Victoria Australia. It provides the handler with the skills and knowledge required to prepare their dog for certification, or to implement, manage and provide administrative support for a therapy dog programme.

Learn with the best!

On this 3-day intensive course, students develop practical dog-handling skills during interactive workshops with our training team. Knowledge is developed via theory lectures allowing handlers to select and prepare a dog for training and certification. By the end of this course, Provisional Handlers can prepare and socialise their dog for training and Certification.

At this level, graduates can develop a plan or structure for a CAI programme, or provide guidance on the development and implementation of a CAI programme including: policy frameworks, knowledge of the research underpinning human animal interactions, an understanding of the principles of canine health and welfare, and an understanding of the requirements needed to socialise and supervise their Learner Therapy Dogs.

Mode: Live online delivery, OR in person (Melbourne) comprising theory lectures and Instructor led workshops

Pre-requisites: Online Theory subjects (Intro to AAI and CAI Foundations). Dogs must meet suitability criteria (see below)

Duration: 3-day intensive 

Access: Enrol in your preferred dates via the application form below

Optional: Remote Learner Dog Assessment

Course Overview

This course comprises approximately 13 hours of pre-requisite self-paced online learning from the comfort of your own home, followed by one, 3-day intensive, which can be completed either online, or in person.  An optional Learner Dog assessment can be conducted remotely following successful completion of the course.


All applicants must complete the online theory subjects PRIOR to attending the 3-day intensive

Subject one: Introduction to Multidisciplinary Animal Assisted Interactions 

This subject provides participants with a basic understanding of what is involved in the delivery of AAIs, their scope, benefits, and applications in a range of multidisciplinary settings. Please note that all modules and quizzes must be successfully completed prior to moving on to subject two (Approx 4 hours).

Subject two: Canine Assisted Interactions, Foundations of Practice 

This subject provides a comprehensive outline of the foundational knowledge required for ethical CAI practice, including OH&S, ethics and welfare, research on efficacy, and policies and procedures. Please note that all modules and quizzes must be successfully completed prior to moving on to the 3-day intensive (Approx 9 hours).

Attendance requirements

Participants must attend and complete all components of the course, as learning is both sequential and cumulative.

The pre-requisite theory subjects are self-paced, but must be completed in full prior to starting the three day intensive. Each day of the course is divided into a combination of practice and theory. Lectures are designed to enhance participant’s understanding of the skills gained each day, and the knowledge will build progressively over the course. All days must be attended in full.

Recognition of prior learning (RPL)

RPL is available for students who have successfully completed one or more of the pre-requisite subjects (ie. Intro to AAI, CAI Foundations), or have previously Certified with us. For example, students who have previously completed a Certification with a previous dog are not required to re-sit the entire programme again, but can simply attend a (Re)Certification day. 

Other RPL is assessed on a case by case basis for those who have extensive experience or prior training in CCTC and CGBS such as those people who are attending our weekly dog-training classes. RPL will consist of a written (online) exam and a practical competency assessment. This may be conducted remotely where required. Please note, RPL assessments require considerable time and expertise from our team, and as such, do NOT result in a discount to the course price.

3-day Intensive

Level One: Provisional Handler Certification

This intensive course runs live, online or in person, Monday to Wednesday. You will develop therapy dog handling skills from the comfort of your own home anywhere in Australia or the world, or at our dedicated training centre in Melbourne Victoria. Students participate in live practical workshops with our dedicated instructors interspersed with theory lectures on canine training, socialisation and behaviour.


  • Introduction
  • Lecture: Dog training foundations and training method parts one, two and three
  • Prac: Establishing communication, training & handling skills including formal obedience
  • Lecture: Manners that Matter. Understanding and managing canine behaviour
  • Prac: Dog manners workshop
  • Lecture: Applied Welfare and Ethics
  • Prac: Recognising canine body language and communication
  • Lecture: Principles of Socialisation
  • Prac: Socialisation worksop
  • Prac & Discussion: Temperament and suitability assessments & standards

Learning objectives:

  •  Demonstrate an understanding of reward-based dog handling skills (without reliance on food), and how these may be used for therapy dog preparation including:
    • Selection and use of training equipment
    • Sit and drop/down
    • Step Away (stay exercise)
    • Free or focussed walking on the lead
  • Understand and develop skills in Canine Cognitive Tonal Conditioning (CCTC), facilitating effective language and communication with your dog, particularly outside of traditional obedience cues
  • Describe and workshop the Quadrants of Canine Good Behaviour Shaping (Manners that Matter) and understand how these assist with the development of co-regulation and self-regulation, including:
    • Polite greetings
    • Boundaries
    • Behavioural problem solving
  • Understand the importance of TLC – Trust, Leadership and Consistency, in the human-canine relationship
  • Understand the principles of canine socialisation, stress and resilience, to ensure a positive socialisation outcome when dogs are facing novel or challenging environments
  • Describe strategies to assess and enhance canine wellbeing during CAI
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in the human canine team, including stress and fatigue, and methods to enhance wellbeing
  • Develop skills to successfully identify, socialise and prepare a dog for training and Certification as a Visiting Therapy Dog

Assessment and Certification

Provisional Handlers: E-Courses and online (theoretical) content are assessed via online (open book) questionnaires. Participants are required to obtain 100% correct in order to pass the assessments. Three attempts are provided to pass each assessment. If participants are unsuccessful, they must contact the course instructor for further support.

The practicum component of this course is not formally assessed for competence. Handlers are provided with a written statement of their dog handling progress, and are notified of any concerns identified which may negatively impact on their dog’s ability to progress to Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification.

At the end of this course, graduates are awarded Provisional Handler Certification and provided with a certificate of completion.

Optional Learner Dog Assessment: Provisional Handlers may choose to have their dog assessed as a Learner Therapy Dog. This assessment is conducted remotely and consists of a Veterinary Check, Video submission of the dog interacting with people/environment, and a training assessment conducted by an approved local trainer of your choice.


Suitable for

  • People with a dog who are interested in preparing their dog for visiting/therapy dog work, but are unable to attend the formal Certified Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler team assessments in Melbourne Australia.
    • Please note: if you do not yet have a dog, or you feel your current dog wouldn’t be suitable for the role of therapy dog, consider our Short E-Courses as a great start to your AAI training
  • People and dogs should not suffer from any health or medical conditions which would negatively impact their ability to participate in intensive training
  • Dogs should be mature enough to manage 3 days of intensive training (8 months of age or older)
  • If you would like to proceed with your dog onto full Team Certification, please ensure your dog meets the suitability criteria for that course as it differs from the requirements for Provisional Handler Certification
  • Please ensure you read the terms and conditions of enrolment on the application form

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)

Optional - Secondary Handlers

In some settings, it is appropriate for a dog to have multiple handlers, for example facility dogs working in schools or organisational settings. In this instance, all handlers must have a significant and ongoing relationship with the dog, AND the dog must have a suitable temperament to work with others away from their owner (Primary Handler). For example, the dog would happily go to that person for comfort or guidance, that person understands the dogs individual preferences, strengths and weaknesses, and they have regular contact. In all cases, the Primary Handler must retain responsibility and oversight/supervision of the dog’s training, behaviour, interactions and welfare.

Where there is more than one handler per dog the Primary Handler must be the person with whom the dog lives. Lead The Way does not support the training or employment of facility dogs who reside fulltime in a facility without a stable, primary, handler who can maintain oversight and responsibility, and with whom the facility dog can spend ‘down time’ when not working. 

All handlers must independently display competence in formal knowledge assessments (online assessments) and handling skills assessments. Whilst it is acceptable for Secondary Handlers to complete the Level One practicum together with the Primary Handler, all assessments, including the Level One Learner Dog (Remote) Assessment, and the Level Two Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Assessment must be completed independently. It is important that Secondary Handlers are competent to work with the dog when the Primary Handler is not present, and that the dog is confident and comfortable to seek reassurance from the Secondary Handler in the absence of their owner.  Please note that discounts will apply to Secondary Handlers up to and including Level One. 

Access and Pricing

Level One – Provisional Handler Certification

Course dates can be found on the application form and on the training calendar

$990 AUD (Inc. GST)

Optional – Remote Learner Dog Assessment

After completing Level One, Provisional Handlers may choose to have their dogs assessed as Learner Therapy Dogs in order to allow them to begin socialising and preparing within their future workplace. The Learner Dog Assessment is comprised of three components

Veterinary Check

The Vet check ensures your dog is healthy and temperamentally suitable to begin interacting with people.

Training Assessment

The Training assessment ensures that your dog can follow simple directions, and will not represent a safety risk by becoming over excited or overstimulated when faced with common distractions. Any local professional dog trainer is eligible to conduct the assessments after completing our simple induction process (Alternatively this assessment can be booked with one of Lead The Way’s own specialist trainers in Ferntree Gully, Vic).

Video Assessment

The video assessments must demonstrate your dog interacting with people and common elements in the environment. These are assessed by our own team and ensure that your dog is likely to enjoy interacting with people, and will not suffer any negative welfare implications while training for therapy work.

Access and Pricing

Remote Learner Dog Assessment

$200 AUD (Inc. GST)

(Cost does not include charges incured from your own Vet or dog trainer)