The popularity of using dogs to assist humans in various ways has absolutely skyrocketed in the past year or so. We are receiving calls and emails every day from clients who would like a dog to help with:

  • illness, including psychological illness ie PTSD, autism etc
  • physical disabilities
  • emotional support
  • schools requiring a therapy dog or reading assistance dog
  • medical professionals requiring a dog to assist in their practice
  • organisations providing palliative care
  • visits to aged care facilities
  • visits to hospitals

Some dogs have an intuitive ability to do things – help people in distress, aid movements or relieve stress.

Therapy Dog – works with handler to provide comfort and joy to those in hospital, schools, aged care facilities, courts etc.

Service Dog/Assistance Dog –  a service dog is trained to perform tasks to assist handlers with disabilities, ie hearing, eyesight, seizures etc.

Emotional Support Dog – gives comfort and support to handlers with anxiety or emotional related illness.

NOTE: Emotional Support Animals (abbreviated to ESA) are not recognised under Australian law. This term is vague and there are no requirements for an ESAs role or behaviour standards. This is because ESAs are not guaranteed access under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, unlike an assistance dog. An ESA may support a person through depression, anxiety or another medical condition but this does not mean that the animal is specifically trained to do so; rather, they do so merely by their presence.

Can You Train Your Own Dog?

Yes. But, there is no guarantee that a dog you choose will be suitable as a therapy dog, particularly if you would like to undergo the Public Access Test (PAT test) for your dog to accompany you in public places.  Anxious or fearful dogs are not suitable for testing.

As puppies grow, develop and experience the world, behaviour can change.

How to Train Your Own Dog?

If you choose a pup, book into a puppy class from 8 weeks of age with a behavioural dog trainer who uses force free methods. Ongoing training can be provided by these trainers and will not cost you the earth!

We will provide training to prepare you and your dog for the Public Access Test.  We will also provide honest feedback on the suitability of your dog as a service or therapy dog.

Trainers can be sourced via:

Pet Professional Guild Australia

Delta Society Australia

There are many others who are not listed on these websites, so please contact us for a referral in your area.

Organisations that may be able to assist you are:

Personal Assistance Dog Solutions -

MindDog -

Guide Dogs Victoria -

Do you need to spend thousands of $ on a course or trained dog?

No, any skilled trainer can prepare you for the public access test.  With the popularity of service and therapy dogs increasing, we are seeing specific training businesses emerge. Please thoroughly check credentials of any organisation before spending a considerable amount of money on a training program that may not be appropriate or necessary.

Pre-Trained Dog - Some organisations train and provide therapy dogs and there is a cost for this service.

The Public Access Test – what is it?

If you would like your dog to accompany you in public places such as shopping centres, they must undergo The Public Access Test.  They must be retested to ensure they are safe to work in public places and do not present risk to the public.  Here is a link to the test.

MindDog – The Public Access Test -

What About the Dog’s Welfare?

If you are considering a dog as a therapy dog within a school or business environment, please discuss potential risks and issues with a qualified trainer.  Exposing dogs continually to stressful situations may present risk to all involved and reduce or end the dog’s suitability for the job.

We hope you have found this information helpful.  At this point in time in Australia only Western Australia and Queensland have a clear structure in place for testing and retesting of dogs for public access.  Other States need to look at establishing legislation or a code of practice urgently to meet the growing demand for service and therapy dogs requiring public access.  We would encourage you to speak to your local Member of Parliament to highlight this need.


43 Responses

  1. Hi would like to know if there is somewhere or someone you could put me in concact with in Sydney please.
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please see trainer listings on Pet Professional Guild or Delta Society Australia websites. All the best!
  2. Jim
    can i get my own dog registered as a Home Therapy Assistance Dog without having to go through PAT i'm in Victoria?
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      I dont know Jim. That is something you would need to talk to your health care professional team about.
  3. I am currently living on phillip island however i would love to offer my 8 year old cavalier king charles as a therapy dog. what are the courses available ? thankyou
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      All courses are outlines on our website. The Pet Dog Manners Course would be the most appropriate option.
  4. If I was to approach my local Victorian legislative assembly representative exactly what would I be asking the government to do? i.e. What do clear guidelines re PAT look like and what would you like to specifically see improved in Victoria?
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Hi Jennifer. The a link to the PAT test is included in this article. Guidelines would incorporate a list of approved trainers, testing process, retesting, etc.
  5. Hi l am considering trying to get a therapy dog l have mental illness l hope that maybe a dog would help me get out of the house. I just wondering what costs are involved in the training process and what breeds of dogs are best for training l don’t want a big dog. Look forward to hearing from you my phone number is 0409 808 957.
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Hi there. Please contact our office 9am to 5.30pm and we'll be happy to have a quick chat.
  6. Good morning We have a son with autism and would love to get him a campanion dog. Unfortunately there is an 18mth waiting list, so we were thinking about getting a dog ourselves and completing the training. I’m just wondering if you have any advice on how I get information on campanion dog training here in wa. We would really value your professional opinion in regards to getting a suitable dog, and when and were we can complete the correct training. I look forward to hearing from you Kind regards Annette
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Hi Annette. You will need to contact a trainer in WA. See the Pet Professional Guild or Delta Society websites for a contact. Thanks
  7. Hi. Im looking at getting an Emotional Support Dog for my son. He has adhd and anxiety. Im not allowed to have pets in my unit. How do I register a dog to over rule this. Thank you
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      You would need to discuss this with your GP and seek their assistance. Sorry I cant help.
  8. Gab
    Hi There, need to take my emotional support dog with me overseas in the aircraft cabin. Airline is OK as long as I provide a letter from my mental health professional (no problems getting this) and also the dog passes the PAT. We have only 4 months to do this. Could you please suggest who in Melbourne can provide appropriate training for PAT then who can test the dog and issue the PAT certificate ? Many thanks.
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Hi There. You would need to contact an organisation like MindDog to assist with testing. All the best!
      • Gab
        Many thanks for the quick reply. Noted.
  9. How much dose it cost to have a dog train for a sevices dog and at what age ?
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please contact a trainer in your local area.
  10. Hi there, I am looking at buying a pup and I want to be able to use as a therapy and support dog, I know there are more suitable breeds than others but do you have any feedback in regards to the Husky as a suitable breed with appropriate training.
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Anything is possible! If you contact a trainer local to you, they will assist. See website page & blog for info.
  11. I am a ndis carer and would like a therapy dog for a clent- for beh social and sensory benefits. Standard obedience training would be good but also traffic training. What would you recommend in breed and training options
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please contact a trainer on the listing provided. All the best!
  12. I would like a companion dog to help me manage anxiety and depression ,my maltese shitzui has passed we were together for sixteen years,l would be very grateful of any assistance .l live in Portland victoria.
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please contact a trainer on the listings provided. All the best!
  13. Hi I’m in Essendon private hospital and I have a cavoodle and she is my right arm I’m not aloud to have her with me all the time due to no tickets so was wondering I do I get one my dog is 3 she is really good could you let me know what I need to do
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please speak with your health care provider, or a training in your local area. All the best!
  14. Hi I have.a cavoodle and I have pTSD she knows when I’m not well I would like her in hospital with me she comes for visit but then I’m lost how do I go about registration as a anxiety or companion dog
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please speak with your health care provider, or a trainer in your local area. All the best!
  15. So does your program teach the dog, service dog tasks such as DPT(Deep pressure therapy) and anxiety alerts and down stays (staying down for more than 30 minutes)?
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please speak with your health care provider, or a training in your local area. Any good trainer can assist you with these tasks. All the best!
  16. Hi I have a cavoodle and I suffer with ptsd I have severe depression anxiety etc she is 3 I would like her trained I can do it but I just need to know what to do my phone no is 0422800617 I live in Alexandra
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please speak with your health care provider, or a trainer in your local area. All the best!
  17. Hi I currently work at a special needs school and am wanting to train my 2 year old golden retriever and receive the necessary accreditation so I can take him to school with me. Can you please advise the best course of action to take and where I could do the training. He currently goes to dog training now. Thank you Julie
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Perhaps ask your dog trainer, or contact Guide Dogs Aust.
  18. Hi, I work with a child who has Down Syndrome through NDIS. I am thinking of trying to get my dog to pass the test. If she passes, could I use my dog to encourage her to go to school and hospital appointments etc (if her mum agrees) or does it need to be arranged through an organization? Also, somedays other people ( my adult children) take the child places. Would they be able to take the dog or would I be the only one who could " handle " the dog? With permission could I take the dog to my father's nursing home, if she passed the test? Thanks Katrina
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Hi Katrina. Please read the website page and blog for all information. We can only assist with training. You will need to speak to your NDIS team re testing and visit approval. All the best!
  19. Im interested in getting george my 11yr esm.i had PTSD aniexty panick attacks since sleeps with me sh goes everywhere with me. I love george without george i wouldn't be here today she saved me we have strong bond.i dont leave house alot if cant take george. My concern is george age struggle with drop on demand .she sit stay she grt in public she use of ppl in wheelchair she visits niebhours son next door in chair she sit beside him so he csn pat there way to old dog her owner who loves wont go anywhere without i live in fear without my george thank
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Hi Pauline. Please read the website page and blog for all information. We can only assist with training. You will need to speak to your NDIS team re testing and visit approval. All the best!
  20. Hi I have PTSD, Am in Qld, with 5yo RR cross, just reqd through all the messages and see a lot of your answers say speak with Dr. Would my psychologist be able to assist in getting my dog registered as a companion animal/ ESA or who do I approach for this please?
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Please read the website page and blog for all information. We can only assist with training. You will need to speak to your NDIS team re testing and visit approval. All the best!
  21. I have a greyhound can she bean autism and anxiety service dog? because I have had many meltdowns and anxiety attacks since the start of the year. thank you, Megan,
    • Paw Behaviour Dog Talk
      Hi there. Best to get in touch with an organisation that tests service dogs & ask their opinion. We can only assist with training. All the best!

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