Certification Courses for Therapy Dogs & Handlers
Level Two – Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification
This Certification level is ideal for health, human-service, helping, support or education professionals who wish to work with their dogs to support their students, clients, customers or participants. It Certifies the handler and dog team to work safely, effectively and ethically in visiting or professional multidisciplinary settings, delivering canine assisted interactions (CAI).
Learn with the best!
On this 3-day intensive course, dog and handler teams learn to provide safe and ethical canine assisted interactions (CAI) within their workplace or community. Practical skills include handling, socialisation, manners and interactions. Teams prepare for workplace applications, sit their final evaluations and community visits, and graduate as Certified Visting Therapy Dog and Handler Teams.
At this level, graduates can facilitate safe interactions between clients and dogs. Visiting Therapy Dogs at Foundation Level Two are assessed for suitability, desire and safety to work with a range of different people, including children and diverse adults. Handlers are assessed for their attunement with their Therapy Dog, and their skills in managing interactions, welfare and safety.
Mode: In person, Melbourne Australia. *NEW Part time option*
Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level One. Handlers must have a current working with children’s check or equivalent. Dogs must meet suitability criteria (see below)
Duration: 3-day intensive practicum & assessment (Thursday – Saturday)
Access: Enrol in your preferred dates via the application form below
This course builds on the theoretical foundations established during online learning, and the practical knowledge and skills developed during Level One training. The 3-day intensive practicum runs live in Melbourne Australia, incorporating therapy dog and handler team assessments, work readiness planning (e.g. policies & procedures), mutually rewarding interactions & interventions, and community visits.
We recommend that students give themselves on average 2 months between attending Level One and Level Two to ensure the team has consolidated their communication, training, socialisation and working partnership prior to assessment.
Level One – Provisional Handler Certification
This intensive course runs live online Monday to Wednesday developing therapy dog handling skills from the comfort of your own home anywhere in Australia or the world. Students participate in live online workshops with our dedicated instructors interspersed with online lectures on canine training, socialisation and behaviour.
3-day Intensive practicum & assessment (Melbourne Australia)
Level Two: Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification
This intensive practicum runs face to face in Melbourne on a Thursday to Saturday, and incorporates the team assessments required for Certification. Students learn how to safely handle and introduce their dogs to a range of clients using simple interaction and intervention strategies, beginning with simulations and culminating in supervised community visits to children and diverse adults. Dogs must be working well with their handlers, and have consolidated their skills prior to commencing Level Two.
- Refresh – formal obedience and training workshop
- Applied Manners workshop – regulation in everyday scenarios
- Applied socialisation, welfare and drives workshop – management of challenging environments
- Interaction and intervention scenarios
- Workplace readiness workshop
- Temperament and behaviour assessments
- Role play assessments (human-canine interactions)
- Covid permitting – Community visits providing CAI to diverse novel people
- Course conclusion and future directions
- Demonstrate competence in reward-based dog handling, in novel and highly distracting situations, without reliance on food
- Demonstrate effective co-regulation and attunement between dog and handler using Canine Cognitive Tonal Conditioning outside of formal obedience. This includes the ability to effectively interpret, reinforce or interrupt a given behaviour as required
- Demonstrate competence in the quadrants of Canine Good Behaviour Shaping, and Manners that Matter
- Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of canine socialisation, managing your dog’s wellbeing whilst facing novel or challenging environments, such as meeting small animals, or working alongside equipment
- Participate in simulations, scenarios and interactions to demonstrate competence in facilitating mutually rewarding human-canine interactions and interventions
- Deliver a simple AAI role-play with the assistance of other course participants (subject to Covid-safe guidelines) including;
- Demonstrating the capacity to effectively facilitate your dog’s engagement with a ‘client’
- Demonstrate appropriate handling, communication and supervision of your dog to ensure the safety and welfare of all parties, whilst simultaneously engaging a client
- Covid permitting: Conduct supervised community visits demonstrating appropriate professional conduct and management of your dog around novel people, such as diverse adults and children
Part time option
Complete the training in two blocks
- Attend day one (Thursday) on site as a stand alone day
- Attend day two and three (Friday Saturday) on a separate occasion to complete certification
Participants and their dogs must attend all components of the 3-day practicum and assessment in order to demonstrate adequate competency for Certification. Handler and dog teams can not be granted 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 Certification. Fees Apply
Recognition of prior learning (RPL)
Please note that RPL is not available for competency assessments, and as such Level Two 3-day practicum IS NOT subject to RPL for new handlers.
Assessment and Certification
Practical assessments for Team Certification are based on skills and competency demonstrated over the duration of the 3-day practicum, 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 are ‘not yet competent’ on the final day of the course, may re-enrol in the entire (three day) Level Two practicum again at a later date, or may enrol in the one-day (Re)Certifcation Day (subject to availability and staff recommendation). Fees apply.
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 five 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, current research and recommendations from the International Society of Animal Assisted Therapy (ISAAT) and the International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO) Guidelines. Assessment standards and guidelines are contained in the CAI Foundations of Practice Manual. Please contact the course coordinator if you would like an updated copy of the assessment standards and guidelines.
At the end of this course, successful graduates are awarded Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification and are supplied with a certificate and a Visiting Therapy Dog Identification Coat.
- Adults (18+ years) with a dog who would like to Certify as a Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team, in order to deliver CAI
- Participants must have a current working with children’s check or equivalent
- All participants must be accompanied by their own dog, with whom they have a strong and ongoing bond. Handlers will receive certification as a team with that dog. Each participant may bring only one dog per course, and the dog must be of suitable age, temperament and health (see ‘Visiting Therapy Dog Suitability Checklist’ below). Applicants from overseas should speak with us in advance about alternative options. 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 a completed the Visiting Therapy Dog Brief Veterinary Health Screen (will be emailed)
- Dogs should be mature enough to manage the practicum (comprising 3 days of intensive training, visiting and assessments). The minimum age for this Certification is 8 months of age.
- Dogs must meet the suitability criteria listed in the Visiting Therapy Dog Suitability Checklist (see below)
- 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)
Visiting Therapy Dog Suitability Checklist
Dogs must be at least 8 months of age, healthy and mature enough to cope with intensive training. They must be your dog, who has lived with you for 3 months or longer, and whom you know well. Your relationship should be strong and mutually respectful as you will be Certified to work together as a team. Your dog should be keen to approach strangers and must not have any fear or aggression with people, dogs or other animals. It is important that visiting therapy dogs genuinely love all people, including strangers, and genuinely want to interact physically with them. A dog who loves only his/her family and not strangers will become stressed and unhappy if compelled to work as a visiting therapy dog.
Unless you and your dog have extensive prior training, we recommend that you give yourself at least two months to consolidate your training before proceeding from Level One, Provisional Handler Certification to Level Two, Visiting Team Certification. Please speak directly with one of our course coordinators to discuss your suitability to complete both Levels One and Two within the same week.
Dogs must be safe and controllable when working in a wide variety of settings, and under a wide range of distractions. Some excitability is not exclusionary to beginning therapy dog training (e.g., the dog may jump up for pats or gets excited when visitors arrive), however this should resolve as you move through Level One training and be eliminated by Level Two. If your dog has any specific fears, issues, or concerning behaviour (such as aggression) you will need to speak with us about behavioural rehabilitation PRIOR to enrolling in Level One. If unsure, please refer to the Visiting Therapy Dog Suitability Checklist below.
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 enjoys 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
- My dog shows willingness to learn various obedience cues e.g. sitting or lying down (even if only informally at home) without growling or becoming fearful (Note: Dogs should have received basic training prior to attending a Certification course)
- My dog will cope being in a room with other dogs (on-lead) and training 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
Please note that we have trained many hundreds of visiting therapy dogs, and the above criteria are a good indication of your dog’s suitability for this work. However, there is no guarantee that your dog will pass all of the assessments, even if they do meet all of the suitability criteria. If you can’t confidently answer the questions because your dog has never been in that situation, it may mean that your dog is not yet adequately socialised to a diverse range of people and environments. You may like to consider exposing your dog to a few more situations to see how they respond. We highly recommend attending training classes with Lead The Way Institute as soon as you bring your puppy home, or when you begin to consider a career as a therapy or support dog. You may also find our short courses helpful, e.g. Preparing Your Dog To Be a Therapy Dog. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to us prior to enrolling.
Dogs who do not meet all of the suitability criteria may not be suitable to work as visiting therapy dogs and may not pass the assessments. Alternatively, these dogs may have restrictions placed on their certification. If you have not been able to tick all boxes above, you must speak to the course coordinator PRIOR to confirming your enrolment and paying your deposit.