Riverina K9



Image of Animal Assisted Support Dog Learning & Education

What are School Support Dogs?

A School Support Dog is an animal that is engaged to provide therapeutic support for students in educational environments such as early education settings, primary and secondary schools as well as universities and colleges. Their assistance may come in the form of emotional support, companionship and varied interaction with students to encourage wellbeing and skill development. This may often be known as animal assisted therapy, animal assisted education or animal assisted learning.


There are many forms a School Support Dogs help may come in, to assist a wide range of students needs whilst at school. Some examples may be:

  • Supporting students to develop a sense of connectedness and belonging in the school environment
  • To encourage regular student attendance
  • Provide companionship for general support and improved mental health outcomes
  • Be a tactile form of support, promoting gentle touch (with pats) and calm behaviour
  • Teach empathy and promote interpersonal skill development
  • Be a non-confronting audience when a student is participating in a learning activity like reading or other forms of literacy development
  • Accompanying students in a range of environments as they developing pro-social skills
Image of graduate holding support therapy dog
What type of dogs can be school dogs?

Many dogs have the potential to work as school support dogs however ultimately it is a dog with an appropriate temperament and level of training that is most likely to be successful in this type of role. 

After passing an initial temperament, behaviour and health assessment a school dog can begin their training for this role at any age. Although some puppies may be chosen with specific attributes that are ideal for this type role, School Support Dogs can range in age from younger to older dogs and are not limited to those that begin training as puppies.


School Dogs are generally owned and care for by a staff member. They come to school at select times to do their very important work. School Dogs may also have a number of other staff handlers who assist them whilst they are working at school supporting students. A School Support Dog’s welfare, health and happiness are extremely important, so this is closely monitored and managed in accordance with the NSW Department of Education’s Guidelines.

In the planning stages a school must first identify the purpose of the dog and a clear justification for having a School Support Dog. The justification should reflect what the school wants to address by having a school support dog, how the dog is going to be used, and what benefits they hope to gain from having a school support dog. The justification is a legal requirement of the Animal Research Act.

A School needs to consider and be clear about:

  • the expected outcomes
  • the duties of the dog
  • the ownership of the dog
  • responsibilities of the school and the owner

An accredited Trainer can assist you in the preliminary stages of planning to bring a Support Dog into your school.

Animal Assisted Learning

Great question! The best place to begin is enlisting the guidance of a professionally accredited Dog Trainer to help support you bringing a school support dog on board. This process may be slightly different for each institution based on their needs. A Trainer may assist you in a range of areas with puppy or dog selection, as well as dog and human training, school integration and a variety of other aspects of caring for a support dog within the school environment. This may also include ongoing support with annual assessments, supervision and ongoing or specific training. School Support Dogs are required to be assessed annually by a Trainer with national accreditation to make sure they are happy and retain the skills and behaviours that are important within their role. Checkout our blog and video on how to find the best professional guidance possible.

Get in touch with us today if your keen for some more information or we can further assist you and your school.

Animal involvement in educational settings can result in a reduction in stress and anxiety for students

– Dawn D. Sandt
(Effective Implementation of Animal Assisted Learning Interventions in the Inclusive Early Childhood Learning Classroom)
We can assist schools and staff in a range of areas such as:
  • Puppy & Dog selection
  • Breeder screening attune to your needs and requirements
  • Assessing and evaluating a dog’s suitability for a school support role
  • Documentation and writing school policies relating to School Support Dogs
  • Initial safety risk assessment and management planning
  • Puppy development for a special school role
  • Preparing for a School Support Dog in the school environment
  • School Support Dog integration and milestone planning
  • Developing avenues for students to access animal assisted learning and education
  • Basic dog obedience and handling skills
  • Animal welfare management and coordination, as well as instruction on day-to-day responsibilities and care
  • Canine and human advocacy awareness
  • All levels of obedience training leading up to a dog taking on their School role, during transition and beyond….
  • Tailored training programs and exercises to help with specific school or student requirements, whereby complex or task-based skills are a requirement
  • Plus so much more….

Together, we’ll create channels of clear communication, set realistic goals and expectations to provide access to a rewarding and beneficial experience for all involved.

Our approach to School Support Dog Training Programs:
  • Is tailored to suit the needs of your school, students, staff and dog
  • Takes place at your school, in your classrooms, offices or anywhere on school grounds
  • Is conducted at a pace owners, handlers and the dog are comfortable with
  • Gives your team the tools and skills to support and maintain health, happiness and positive behaviour in your School Support Dog
  • Helps to build and maintain a healthy relationship between students, staff and your School Support Dog
  • Support you on all aspects of adhering to the NSW Department of Education Guidelines surrounding School Support Dogs in order to comply with all relevant legislation including the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW), the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 1979 (NSW) and the Animal Research Act 1985 (NSW).

Guiding, supporting, motivating and maintaining your School Support Dog to be the very best version of themselves can take time, effort and patience – it really is a team effort! For your dog’s success, it’s essential to keep up training and consistency outside of any formal training sessions. This way the important skills your dog learns and positive associations they make will be able to factor into the special work they go on to do. It is also important to prioritise a dog’s needs whilst working and off the clock in terms of rest, enrichment, exercise and species-appropriate activities. We are available for continued support to all our school clients in a range of areas pertaining to dog training, care and wellbeing.


In-Training Support

When it comes to training a puppy, starting as early as possible is ideal. Young dogs are keen to learn, and supporting your puppy with good socialisation, positive environmental exposure, along with appropriate training right from the beginning is an important part of giving them the best start possible as they move towards a school support role.

Training a puppy is a bit like building a house.


Well, just as the designing, planning, engineering and initial foundations have a major impact on the end result of the house, training puppies is all about building good quality foundations for future success and stability. Building up younger dogs the right way will give them the skills to learn efficiently, build trust, develop healthy coping mechanisms. 

You can take comfort in knowing we work across all age groups too, from puppies through to older dogs well into their senior years, so you have our support throughout your puppy’s entire life!

Initial groundwork and foundations with a puppy ‘in training’ involves building their social confidence, supporting positive associations, resilience and adaptability. This is of course topped off by learning great manners and important skills along the way. We use a relationship-based approach as well as positive interaction exercises to build strong human bonds, social attentiveness and nurturing the development of an even temperament. All the key aspects of a great School Support Dog!

Our key focus areas when it comes to working with puppies are:

  • Association development
  • Confidence building
  • Relationship and Bonding
  • Beneficial socialisation practices
  • Environmental exposure at school and habituation
  • Basic obedience and skill building
  • Age appropriate and transitional development
  • Health, care and wellbeing

These are important elements when nurturing a puppy for a specific and special role.


'In-training' or 'on-the-job' support

Adult or older dogs can also be amazing School Support Dogs. A dog that exhibits great social bonds, positive associations with all types of people, an even temperament and high levels of adaptability on the whole may make a great candidate.

Engaging an accredited Trainer to provide you an initial assessment and evaluation is the best way to get started with any School Support Dog prospect. School Dogs are not limited to dogs that begin working towards this role as a puppy. Dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes may qualify as amazing dogs to be a School Dog.

We provide ongoing support in many ways for all Schools and their Dogs. This can come in the form of ongoing obedience and handler instruction, school integration and supervision, annual behaviour and skill assessments or testing + much more….

Get in touch with us today if your keen for some more information or we can further assist you and your school.

We can’t wait to help your dog reach their full potential!