Therapy Dog and Handler Training and Certification Overview

Training and Certification in Canine Assisted Interactions and Interventions (CAI) for Therapy Dogs and Handlers

Certification Overview

This unique and comprehensive training programme provides Therapy Dog Certification and Therapy Dog Handler Certification taught by the leaders in the industry. It builds skills progressively via a number of short courses, culminating in a Certificate of Animal-Assisted Interactions (Canine)* & Practitioner Certification

Please note: There are no CAI courses in Australia accredited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). This course is therefore not a Nationally Recognised Training Course or VET course under Australian law.

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, animal assisted education and animal assisted interactions (AAI). Teams work in a range of settings, such as mental health, education and schools, 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 offer more flexibility and choice than ever before.

Certification Process Infographic

Foundational, Advanced and Professional Training in AAI


Short E-Course – Introduction to Multidisciplinary Animal Assisted Interactions

Short E-Course – Canine Assisted Interactions Foundations of Practice

Level One – Provisional Handler Certification

Optional – Learner dog assessment

Optional – Secondary Handlers

Level Two – Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification


Level Three – Advanced Theory and Preparation

Level Four – Advanced Therapy Dog and Handler Team Certification

Optional – Advanced MultiDog Group and Handler Certification 


Level Five – Masterclasses & Practitioner Certification in AAT, AAE or AAA


  • Foundational e-courses provide the prerequisite theoretical foundations of AAI and CAI
  • Level One – Provisional Handler Certification (Canine). Provisional Handlers understand the necessary OH&S, welfare and organisational requirements of CAI and can prepare and socialise their dog for training and Certification. At this level, graduates can develop a plan or structure for a CAI programme.
  • Optional Learner Dog Provisional handlers can begin socialising their Learner dogs in the workplace with the Learner Dog assessment. This can be completed 100% remotely with a local trainer of your choice
  • 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). We are happy to train and certify secondary handlers and discounts are offered when primary and secondary handlers certify simultaneously (up to Level One).
  • Level Two – Certified Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team.  Certified Handlers facilitate safe interactions. The Visiting Therapy Dog has been assessed as responsive on lead and enjoys people. At this level, teams can provide visiting therapy dog services within their workplaces and communities.


  • Level Three – Advanced course theory and preparation.  Certified Handlers understand creative interventions and the neurobiology of interactions. They understand how to apply the Neurobiological Model of Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) to client interactions and interventions in multidisciplinary settings. At this level, graduates can develop creative interactions that are specifically targeted to meet individual client goals.
  • Level Four – Certified Advanced Therapy Dog and Handler Team.  Advanced Handlers 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 interactions that meet client goals, even within complex environments.
  • Optional – Advanced MultiDog Group and Handler Certification. Advanced MultiDog Handlers can work with more than one dog simultaneously during client interactions. The dogs have been assessed as working well together in a group.


At this level, graduates work collaboratively with their Advanced Therapy Dog(s) to deliver creative, engaging and comprehensive interventions, in line with their professional practice. For example curriculum plans, treatment plans, or intervention programmes.

To achieve the Practitioner Certification, students must complete 9 months of supervised professional practice, a minimum of one discipline specific masterclass, and the Level Five knowledge readings and exam.

  • Professional supervision. Students develop a supervision plan for their 9 months of professional practice with one of the Institute’s approved supervisors. Via supervision, students refine the integration of their CAI skills with their primary professional practice of Therapy, Education or Activities.
  • Masterclasses.  Students select at least one discipline specific Masterclass to attend following certification at Level One. Masterclasses workshop interactions with some of Australia’s most inspiring masters in their fields. Note, only Certified Advanced Therapy Dogs may attend Masterclass, and it therefore may be beneficial for students to attend their Masterclass after having completed Level Four Certification.
  • Level Five – Certification as a Practitioner in Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), or Animal Assisted Education (AAE). The final stage in the Certificate is to complete the readings and sit the final knowledge exam, demonstrating consolidation of the training over the five Levels.

Ongoing Support

Lead The Way Institute has a suite of services which can support you and enhance your training journey.

  • Dog Training Classes are a great option for puppies who are too young to begin their formal training, or older dogs who need to brush up on their skills prior to certification. It also gives handlers the chance to learn about our training system prior to enrolling in a Certification course. Graduates can benefit from classes to support ongoing skills maintenance or extension to more advanced level skills. Dog Training Workshops are open to class participants who would like specific support with skills including manners, socialisation, drives and multi-dog handling.
  • Organisational consultancy, Professional Development and Workshops are a fantastic way to get your workplace or school on board with the therapy dog programme. We often provide workshops to teachers on how to integrate their new therapy dogs in a whole school approach, and parent workshops to help families with any questions they may have. We consult with organisations who wish to explore their options or the best way to get started in AAI – for example, should the agency own the dog? Should a classroom teacher or an educational support worker be the dog’s handler? Can more than one person work with the therapy dog? Via our professional development, workshops, seminars and conference presentations we provide interested professionals or workplaces with information specific to their needs, from introductory ‘What is AAI’ to advanced applications e.g. ‘Integration of AAT in family therapy’.
  • Professional and clinical supervision groups offer individuals with the chance to network with other CAI professionals who share their passion and interest, whilst being guided by our experienced facilitators.  Supervision is particularly helpful for those who are beginning their professional work but can also assist more experienced teams to re-connect with their passion, learn new skills or techniques, or workshop questions or concerns that have arisen.
  • Training a second dog or a second handler is easy with Lead The Way. Certified teams are given RPL for any coursework previously attended, and can simply sit a (Re)Certification Day to have their new dog asessed. Handlers can also opt to certify multiple dogs in an Advanced MultiDog Group. We also recognise that in many workplaces, there is pressure for more than one person to be qualified to support the working therapy dog. We are happy to train and certify secondary handlers and discounts are offered when primary and secondary handlers certify simultaneously (up to Level One).