Therapy Dog and Handler Training and Certification – Foundational Courses

Therapy Dog and Handler Training and Certification

Foundational Courses

Our foundational training courses offer flexible and online options for those wanting to learn more about animal assisted interactions, and those wanting to train and Certify a Visiting Therapy Dog

Learn with the best!

Since 2006 we have led the industry, Certifying over 400 Therapy Dog and Handler teams.  Our graduates excel in multidisciplinary fields of animal assisted therapy and animal assisted interactions (AAI). Teams work in a range of settings, such as education and schools, mental health, allied health, rehabilitation, medicine, welfare, disability, and other human-service settings.

Our highly qualified and experienced staff continue to set the standards for training and Certification in AAI. We are not just professional dog trainers, we are experienced professionals in human-animal interactions and the human-animal bond including psychologists, counsellors, social workers, educators, vet nurses and animal scientists.

Continually refined and developed, our courses bring together Australia’s leading experts to provide you the most sought after therapy dog and animal assisted intervention and interaction (AAI) Certifications in the country. Our brand new suite of training courses, launching in 2021, offer more flexibility and choice than ever before.

Please note that Foundational Courses are pre-requisite for Advanced training, and can be used as the initial steps towards the Certificate in Animal Assisted Interactions Canine, and Certification as a Practitioner

  • Short e-courses
  • Introduction to Multidisciplinary Animal Assisted Interactions. Online.
  • Canine Assisted Interactions – Foundations of Practice. Online.
  • Provisionally Certified Handler (Canine) – Foundation. (Step One in Certification). Live online.
  • Certified Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team – Foundation. (Step Two in Certification). In person.

Bundle and save!

Buy training packages and receive huge discounts!

What Course Is Right For Me?

At Lead the Way we run a number of different courses so it can be challenging to choose the right course for you and your dog. This short course is designed to explore each of our programmes, describing who they are for and why you might want to apply for each course.

FREE!

Find out more

Is My Dog Suitable To Be A Therapy Dog? 

Are you interested in involving your dog at work, but not sure if your dog is suitable? Do you have clients or students who might benefit from interacting with your dog, but you’re concerned about your dog’s training or temperament? Perhaps you would like to give back to your local community, taking your dog for visits at a nursing home or hospital, but worry your dog may be too old or too young. This short course outlines the requirements for a successful visiting therapy dog allowing you to determine the suitability of your dog.

FREE!

Find out more

Therapy Dogs Are NOT Service Dogs

We live in a world where there is a broad range of terminology used to describe the various roles dog’s can take in our lives. The word “therapy dog” is used in a variety of ways, making it difficult to understand the differences between different roles. This course is designed to help clarify the differences between a visiting therapy dog and a service or assistance dog.

FREE!

Find out more

What Dog Is Right For Me? 

There are many different roles that our dogs can take in our lives and in our communities. It can be difficult to know which role is right for you and your family. Should your dog train as a visiting therapy dog offering love and support to your clients? Should your dog train as an emotional support or service/assistance dog to support you or a family member? This short course is designed to help you firstly consider whether a dog is the right addition to your family and then to understand what might be the best role for your dog to take in your life. We will also explore how Lead the Way may be able to help you achieve this goal.

Find out more

Preparing Your Dog To Be A Therapy Dog

Are you adopting a new puppy you’d love to train as a visiting therapy dog? Do you already live with a dog who would make a great visiting therapy dog? Have you been wondering about how to start their training? If you have been looking for some guidance on preparing them to be a visiting therapy dog then this short course is designed to do just that!

This self-paced stand alone short course provides participants with the knowledge and skills to begin socialisation and training of their dog with the intention to go on to work with people.  Even for those who don’t intend to work in CAI, this course provides advice on developing a great foundation for a well rounded, well socialised and well behaved canine companion.

Find out more

Introduction to Multidisciplinary Animal Assisted Interactions (AAI)

Mode: 100% Self paced online

Pre-requisites: Nil

Approximate Duration: 5 hours

Access: You have 7 days to complete this e-course

How can the inclusion of animals enhance your work, better engage your clients, and provide relief and joy? This course is designed to give an overview of what animal assisted interactions and interventions are, and the benefits to both people and animals. If you have been wanting to learn more about AAIs then this is the course for you!

Bundle and save! This course may be purchased as part of the Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification Package or Practitioner Certification Package.

Course Description

This self-paced, short course 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. Log in at your leisure and complete the modules and associated quizzes to receive your certificate of completion.

(This e-course is a pre-requisite for all Certification courses)

Cost: $99.00 AUD (Inc. GST).   (OR see bundle package prices)

ENROL ANYTIME!

Find out more!

Canine Assisted Interactions (CAI) – Foundations of Practice

Mode: 100% Self paced online

Pre-requisites: Introduction to AAI

Approximate Duration: 8 hours

Access: You have 14 days to complete this e-course

Have you been asked to develop or supervise a therapy dog programme? Do you want to know how to get started, and what might be involved? This e-course will provide you with the knowledge to develop a safe and ethical service

Course Description

This stand alone short course is a great option for those individuals who don’t currently have a suitable dog, or who can’t join in our live Certification courses. Alternatively, this course may be completed as a pre-requisite for Certification. It consists of all of the CAI theory required for Certification, excluding only the live dog-handling workshops and training lectures. This course also includes all of the policies, procedures, standards and best practice guidelines you will need to get your programme started! These alone represent decades of experience and thousands of hours of research and development. Log in at your leisure and complete the modules and associated quizzes to receive your certificate of completion.

(This e-course is a pre-requisite for all Certification courses)

Cost: $1230 AUD (Inc. GST).  (OR see bundle package price)

ENROL ANYTIME!

Find out more!

Provisionally Certified Handler – Canine (Foundation Level)

(STEP ONE in Certification)

Mode: Instructor led, 100% online

(NOTE: this course runs twice annually as a face to face practicum in Melbourne, in March and October 2021)

Pre-requisites: Introduction to Multidisciplinary AAI

                          CAI Foundations of Practice

                          Dogs must meet suitability criteria (see below)

Duration: 2.5 days

Access: You must enrol in set dates via the online application form below

Are you ready to begin training your dog for a future role as a Certified Visiting Therapy Dog? This course is STEP ONE towards Certification and will get you and your dog started on the right path!

Course description

This intensive short course runs live online over 2.5 days 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. Participants graduate with Provisional Handler Certification, which may then form the foundation for further practical training and Certification with their dogs.

We recommend leaving at least one month between completing Step One (Provisional Handler) and Step Two (Team Certification) to allow your dog time to consolidate their new training. If you have had extensive training previously please speak with one of our course coordinators about whether or not it would be suitable for you to complete both Step One and Two in the same week. Provisional Handler Certification runs Monday to Wednesday, finishing early on the Wednesday afternoon to allow participants time to travel to our Melbourne venue should they wish to proceed straight to the Team Certification on the Thursday.

Modules
  • Course introduction
  • Dog training foundations and training method, lecture and workshops
  • Manners that matter, canine behaviour and socialisation, lectures and workshop
  • Principles of socialisation, lecture and workshop
  • Course conclusion and future directions
Learning objectives
  •  Understand and develop skills in reward-based dog handling, without reliance on food
  • Understand the importance of trust, leadership and consistency in the dog-handler relationship
  • Understand and develop skills in Canine Cognitive Tonal Conditioning (CCTC), facilitating effective language and communication with a dog, outside of traditional obedience commands
  • Describe the quadrants of Canine Good Behaviour Shaping (CGBS), and implement Manners that Matter for effective behavioural problem solving
  • Understand the principles of canine socialisation, and their application to stress and resilience when dogs are facing novel or challenging environments
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in the human canine team, including stress and fatigue, and methods to enhance wellbeing
  • Ability to identify, select and prepare a dog for Certification as a Visiting Therapy Dog
Attendance requirements

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

Recognition of prior learning (RPL)

RPL is assessed on a case by case basis, for those who have extensive experience or prior training in CCTC and CGBS. 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.

Assessment and Certification

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.

Suitable for
  •  People with a dog who are interested in preparing their dog for visiting/therapy dog work
  • 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)
  • There is no time limit between completing step one (Provisional Handler Certification) and step two (Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification). These can be completed in the same week
  • 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)

*Please note that dogs are not assessed or certified on this course. Please see Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification for this*

This course is a pre-requisite for all other Certification courses

Dates & Times:

3 consecutive days, Monday & Tuesday 9am – 5pm and Wednesday 9am – 1pm (Melbourne Time). All upcoming course dates can be found on the Application Form.

This course runs live face to face in Melbourne twice per year in March and October 2021

Cost: $1025

Apply Now!

Certified Visiting Therapy Dog & Handler Team (Foundation Level)

(STEP TWO in Certification)

Mode: Live face to face, in person training in Melbourne, Victoria Australia

Pre-requisites: Provisionally Certified Handler (Canine).

Handlers must have a current working with children’s check or equivalent

Dogs must meet suitability criteria (see below)

Duration: 2 days (covid restricted) or 3 days

Access: You must enrol in set dates via the online application form below

Are you and your dog working well together as a team? Are you ready to sit your assessments? This course is STEP TWO in our Certification programme providing graduates with the Team Certification required to begin working together in Canine Assisted Interactions (CAI)! From here you can choose to move on to our Advanced and Professional level training.

Course description

Delivered face to face, with Covid-safe practices, this short course runs over three days. Handlers who have previously completed the Provisional Handler Certification can attend with their dogs to complete a range of practical activities and assessments to achieve their Visiting Therapy Dog & Handler Team Certification.

Visiting Therapy Dogs at the Foundation level are assessed for suitability, desire and safety to work with a range of different people, including children and diverse adults. Participants learn how to safely handle, manoeuvre and introduce their dogs to a range of ‘clients’. 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 ‘Suitable for’ below). Applicants from overseas should speak with us in advance about alternative options. At the end of this course, you will have the skills and the Certification to begin your work together in visiting or professional settings.

  • Day one (Thursday) – applied obedience, manners and socialisation in scenarios
  • Day two (Friday) – simulations, assessments and role plays
  • Day three (Saturday) – community visits
Modules
  • Course introduction
  • Applied obedience under distraction
  • Manners that matter, applied canine behaviour and socialisation scenarios
  • Applied socialisation, equipment and drives
  • 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
Learning objectives
  • Demonstrate competence in reward-based dog handling, in novel and highly distracting situations, without reliance on food
  • Demonstrate trust, leadership, and consistency in dog handling
  • Implement Canine Cognitive Tonal Conditioning, facilitating effective language and communication with your dog, in applied human-animal interaction scenarios
  • 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 human-canine interactions, such as the ‘say hello’ cue
  • Develop and demonstrate a simple AAI role-play with the assistance of other course participants (subject to Covid-safe guidelines) including;
    • Demonstrate at least three commands with your dog (including ‘free’), 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
Attendance requirements

Participants and their dogs must attend all components of this course in order to demonstrate adequate competency for Certification. Handler and dog teams can not be granted Certification if any part of the course is missed. Should any component of the course/assessment not be completed for any reason, participants would be required to re-enrol and re-sit the course, in order to achieve Certification. Full course costs would apply.

Recognition of prior learning (RPL):

RPL is not available for competency assessments, and as such this course is not subject to RPL.

Assessment and Certification

Assessments for Team Certification are based on skills and competency demonstrated over the duration of the course, including scenarios, simulations, role-plays and community visits (or video evidence). All teams passing the assessment on the final day of the course will be supplied with a certificate and a Visiting Therapy Dog Identification Coat.

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 assessment course again at a later date, or may enrol in the (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 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. Assessment standards and guidelines are contained in the CAI Foundations of Practice Course Manual. Please contact the course coordinator if you would like an updated copy of the assessment standards and guidelines.

Suitable for
  •  Adults (18+ years) with a dog who would like to Certify as a Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team, in order to deliver CAI
  • You must already be a Provisionally Certified Handler to enrol in this course, having selected and prepared your dog for therapy dog training
  • You must have a current working with children’s check or equivalent
  • 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 3 days of intensive training, visiting and assessments (8 months of age or older)
  • Dogs must meet the suitability criteria listed in the Visiting Therapy Dog Suitability Checklist (see below), have consolidated their training, and be ready to sit the assessments
  • 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 one month to consolidate your training before proceeding from Step One, Provisional Handler Certification to Step Two, Visiting Team Certification. Please speak directly with one of our course coordinators to discuss your suitability to complete both Step One and Step Two within the one 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 (e.g., the dog may jump up for pats or gets excited when visitors arrive), however this should have settled significantly since completing Step One. 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 the course. If unsure, please refer to the 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:

  1. 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
  2. My dog enjoys meeting strangers (e.g. in the park or the street), and shows this by approaching or seeking attention if allowed
  3. My dog is happy when we have visitors come to the home, and seeks attention from them
  4. My dog likes children
  5. My dog likes elderly or disabled people
  6. My dog is not fearful of cars, bikes, trolleys, skate-boards or other moving objects
  7. My dog is not fearful of stairs, shiny floors, elevators, lights, fans or other typical environments
  8. My dog enjoys being patted, touched and cuddled by strangers
  9. My dog can be left alone at times without becoming distressed or destructive
  10. I can leave my dog tied up or tethered in a safe location for brief periods without them becoming distressed or destructive
  11. My dog will happily go off with a friend or family member without me, without becoming distressed
  12. My dog is reliably toilet trained, and does not ‘mark’ inappropriate objects/furniture indoors or outdoors
  13. My dog enjoys outings and novel activities, for example visiting a new person or place
  14. 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
  15. My dog shows willingness to learn various obedience commands 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)
  16. 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
  17. My dog is fit and healthy enough to travel to a workplace and engage physically with strangers
  18. My dog is fully vaccinated and treated for parasites (e.g. fleas, worms) by a licensed Veterinarian
  19. My dog has NO untreated or unstable medical conditions
  20. 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.
  21. My dog does not ‘mouth’ (place mouth or teeth on people) even in play (including puppies)
  22. 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)
  23. My dog does NOT have any obvious fears or phobias (e.g. thunderstorms, electrical equipment, vacuums, cleaning chemical smells)
  24. 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
  25. 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)
  26. 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
  27. 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. 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.

This course is a pre-requisite for all Advanced Certification courses

 

Covid safe venue – Knoxfield, Victoria Australia

Dates & Times:

3 consecutive days, Thursday to Saturday 9am – 5pm. All upcoming course dates can be found on the Application Form

Cost: $820

Apply Now!

Onsite Melbourne Training FAQ’s

What should I wear?

Please wear sensible clothing, including sturdy, closed-toe shoes and bring a coat, sunscreen and a hat. Thongs, slip-ons and sandals are not safe footwear for the course. Adequate undercover and indoor air-conditioned training spaces are available, however we may venture outside on occasion. Please bring a raincoat if the weather is inclement.

Is the course catered?

Light refreshments will be supplied every day. Boiling water, fridge and microwave are also supplied for your convenience. Please bring your lunch.

What should I bring?

Participants are expected to bring their dogs to the training centre each day of the course. Your dog must be wearing a well-fitting collar and must be on-lead at all times when at the centre (unless under the direct instruction of our staff). Please also bring the head halter supplied during the Provisional Handler Certification course. During break times, dogs will be learning to settle alongside their owners, or may be tethered under staff direction. As the centre has a concrete slab floor, you may wish to bring a mat or bed for your dog to lie on.  Please also note that some dogs do not enjoy sharing a water bowl with others. Please bring your dog’s own bowl if this is the case.

You will be notified if there’s any specific equipment or supplies you’re required to bring.

I am travelling to Melbourne, where can I stay?

Our Knoxfield venue is less than an hour east of Melbourne, and located within 30m drive to the tourist area of the Dandenong Ranges. A google search will assist you to locate appropriate accommodation close to the venue.