I provide professional coaching for owners who are self-training their own assistance (service) dog. I specialise in mobility, hearing and psychiatric tasks for dogs intended to work either in public or an in-home only capacity. I use positive food-based training methods.
I am an accredited Cooperative Paws Service Dog Coach™ and adhere to the Cooperative Paws Code of Ethics
I help people with disabilities train their own dog to assist them, either as an assistance dog working in public places, or as an “In Home Only” assistance dog (with no rights to public access). I offer training for mobility assistance, psychiatric assistance and hearing dog tasks, and I can help owner-trainers prepare their dog for a Public Access Test, or to be trained to the standard required in the Test.
Assistance Dog Owner-Trainer Coaching Process
Step 1 A FREE 20 minute phone call where we discuss your needs, your expectations, and provide information on the process of self-training your own assistance dog.
Step 2 If you do not already have a dog you wish to train, a 45 minute phone/video call or in-person appointment where I give advice on selecting and sourcing a puppy or adult dog, and preparing your home for your new partner. It’s vital to get off to a good start so I will help you develop a training and management plan to establish good routines and habits. FEE $60.00
Step 3 If you already have a puppy or dog, I conduct a 90 minute in-person evaluation of your dog. This is where I take a detailed behavioural, training and lifestyle history, and look at how your dog responds to new situations to see if it is appropriate to begin training him or her for assistance work, and whether this might be with full public access, or In-Home Only. Remember there is no guarantee that your dog will end up succeeding as an assistance dog. FEE $110.00 – conducted at my studio in O’Sullivan Beach
Step 4 If you have a suitable puppy or adult dog, regular training commences. Puppies start by learning to be a good family member, through a program of gentle exposure to a wide variety of people, places and other animals, learning good manners, and building confidence. Next comes training in obedience and task foundation skills, with the most important of these being walking nicely on lead and settling. Distractions are gradually introduced. Between one and three assistance tasks are trained. All this early training is at home and in pet-friendly locations ONLY. Once the dog is well behaved, calm and obedient, and performing the trained tasks in pet-friendly locations, then it is time to start Public Access, if this is what you need and your dog is still suited. Alternatively, your dog may work as an “In-Home Only” assistance dog. This full process usually takes 2 years but can take longer, and there is no guarantee that your dog will end up succeeding as an assistance dog. Lessons are 45 mins, at my studio in O’Sullivan Beach or at a suitable public venue. FEE $60.00-$90.00 per session – weekly or fortnightly
Step 5 Follow up support. Ongoing brush-up training throughout your assistance dog’s working career. Training additional tasks if your needs change. Preparing your dog for retirement. FEE $60.00-$90.00 per session – as required
Considering whether an Assistance Dog is right for you
Can you afford it financially? Dog ownership averages $2000 per year. Purchase of a suitable dog is likely to cost $600-$6000. Training costs from $2000-$5000.
Do you have time to exercise and train your dog every day? Keep records of your training? Take your dog to a variety of places for training purposes?
Are you prepared for the possibility that the dog you choose may not end up being suited to working as an assistance dog?
Do you have someone else who can take care of your dog if you are unwell?
Are you prepared for the public attention that having an assistance dog will create?
Handlers under 18 require an adult to accompany them to all training sessions
You need to be able to attend training lessons for 2 years – training an assistance dog is a long-term project
You need to be able to commit daily time to practicing with your dog between appointments, to keep records of your training, and to follow a training plan.
You need to have a disability as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) – simply having a disorder, medical problem or condition does not mean someone is disabled.
You need to be aware that you may end up with a dog that can only help at home or in places pets are allowed
You need to be willing to wait until I evaluate your dog’s suitability and help you train your dog in foundation skills before putting assistance dog identification on your dog and before taking your dog to places pets are not permitted.
You need to have support from your licensed healthcare provider for use of an assistance dog.
You need to help me to communicate with your healthcare professionals – this is important because the choice to use a service dog, and the selection of specific tasks, need to be appropriate and safe for the individual.
Requirements for the Dog
A cheerful dog that prefers human company over having dog friends, that shows an interest in training, is willing to work for food, is not interested in chasing animals/cars, and is mostly quiet.
A breed or mix likely to have characteristics suitable for service work such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Poodles. Smaller breeds are suitable for hearing work. Each dog is assessed as an individual but some breeds are much more likely to exhibit the characteristics suitable for assistance dog work than others, and just because a dog is a particular breed does not guarantee success.
No history of aggression towards dogs, people or other animals
No history of behaviour problems like fear, reactivity or separation anxiety.
Under age 3, and physically healthy.
The dog must be individually trained in work or tasks which directly mitigate the effects of the qualifying disability i.e. the dog must do something that the person is unable to do for themselves because of their disability, that will help them with daily living. Tasks may include mobility assistance, alerting to sounds, responding to medical conditions, providing specific psychiatric support, or any combination of these.
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