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 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.

There are three levels of training for handlers with Lead The Way Institute – Foundational, Advanced and Professional. Within each are a number of steps towards the Practitioner Certification

All students begin their training at the Foundational level, with short, online theory subjects which can then be used as pre-requisites for Certification. Each step in Certification includes some theory and some practical training. Each step in Certification can stand alone, or can be used as the basis for further advanced or professional training, depending on the student’s goals.

Those students who are unsure if this training will suit them are encouraged to start with the short online courses.


  • Foundational e-courses provide theoretical foundations of AAI and CAI
  • Provisional Handler Certification Canine (online only) – Step one. 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.
  • Certified Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team – Step two.  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.


  • Advanced course preparation and theory (online only) – Step three.  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.
  • Certified Advanced Therapy Dog and Handler Team – Step four.  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.
  • Advanced MultiDog Group and Handler – optional. Advanced MultiDog Handlers can work with more than one Advanced Therapy 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.

  • 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.  Certified Handlers may attend discipline specific Masterclasses to workshop interactions with some of Australia’s most inspiring masters in their fields. Note, only Certified Advanced Therapy Dogs may attend Masterclass.
  • Certification as a Practitioner in Animal Assisted Therapy, Animal Assisted Activities, or Animal Assisted Education – Step five. The final stage in the Certificate is to sit the final knowledge exam, demonstrating consolidation of the training over the five steps.