Training an Assistance Dog
“L-Plate learning” (2 months-12months)
Assistance Dogs Australia relies heavily on volunteers in the community, to raise the puppies for the first year of their life. These Puppy Educators have one of the most important roles to play in training an Assistance Dog. By kindly donating their home and their time to help raise a well-mannered pup, Puppy Educators expose the puppy to as many different sights, sounds and smells as possible. Supported by our staff who run regular puppy training classes, volunteer Puppy Educators make sure their puppy grows into a healthy and obedient dog that is eager to learn. All food and vet bills are covered by Assistance Dogs Australia.
“P-Plate learning” (12months-18/24months)
After 12-18 months with their Puppy Educator, the Assistance Dogs in training return to Sydney, for their advanced training. This is where they gain their ‘P-Plates’, and where our team of Assistance Dog trainers assess each dog and find an appropriate career for them. During their P-Plate training, the dogs learn all the different skills that they will need to help their new owner with everyday life. The training for each dog is entirely unique, depending on their personality, learning style and the type of person that they will be matched with. For owners in wheelchairs, the dogs must learn how to retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, and push the button at pedestrian crossings. For an owner with post-traumatic stress disorder, the dog will be trained to recognise signals of anxiety, wake them up from night terrors and stay focussed from distraction. Trainers will spend a few hours a day training them in advanced skills, while the rest of the day is spent walking and exploring new surroundings to practise their skills. On weekends, the dogs will spend time in a family home.
Creating a new team
When a potential match has been made with someone on our waiting list, we will spend time getting to know the new owner, helping them adjust to having an Assistance Dog and providing them with all the training skills they need to handle their new dog. Regular check-ups and training classes take place in the first 3 months. Once the new team are settled and working together, Assistance Dogs Australia staff will visit at least on an annual basis to conduct a Public Access Test. Our team of Assistance Dog trainers are always on-call to help with training or questions, throughout the 8-10 years of the dogs working life.
The dogs are working with their owners for 8-10 years before they retire. At this point, the dog’s owner will decide if they require another Assistance Dog. Retired Assistance Dogs find a loving home, usually stay with family members or with a friend of the owner.
We are unable to train dogs which are not part of the Assistance Dogs Australia program.