Lead The Way Therapy Dogs

Lead The Way helps schools access therapy dogs to enhance student wellbeing, engagement and connection.

  • Tier: Tier 1: Positive Mental Health Promotion
  • Type of intervention:
    • Animal wellbeing programs
    • Therapeutic programs
  • Strength of evidence: Level 2: Supported by expert opinion or evidence for practice
  • Geographic location: Statewide

Program description

Lead The Way supports schools to access therapy dogs to improve student wellbeing, engagement and connection. In the program, schools are provided with a range of options:

  • training and certifying their own therapy dog
  • access to interventions delivered by animal assisted therapists and their therapy dogs.

For schools who wish to train their own dog, support is provided to access training packages using a mix of online and in-person training. 

The interventions are delivered by 2 facilitators and their certified therapy dog(s), including a qualified mental health professional. The sessions can involve small group programs, or single larger groups.

Sessions look at the following:

  • student wellbeing
  • social skills
  • stress management and mindfulness, and 
  • safe interactions with dogs at school.

Intended outcomes

  • Improved knowledge on how to support personal mental health and wellbeing 
  • Improved knowledge on how to make responsible health and wellbeing decisions 
  • Improved ability to understand one’s emotions, thoughts and values
  • Improved ability to understand the perspectives of and empathise with others, including from diverse backgrounds, cultures and contexts 
  • Reduced likelihood of demonstrating generalised worry, fear or nervousness 
  • Improved self-esteem 
  • Improved student wellbeing 
  • Enhanced school culture which promotes and protects student mental health and wellbeing

Program details

Target audience
  • Primary school students
  • Secondary school students
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • LGBTIQ+ students
  • Asylum seeker and refugee students
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse students
  • Students with disability
  • Capacity building for primary school staff
  • Capacity building for secondary school staff
Program providerLead the Way
Delivery modeCombination of face-to-face and online

Implementation considerations

  • Target population: All students in schools.
  • Program adaptability: Intervention programs are adaptable and flexible, with alternative plans available for primary, special and secondary schools.
  • Staffing: Staff backfill may be required for training sessions if run during school time, or support for staff to attend training after hours/school holidays.
  • Training requirements: For schools who wish to train an onsite dog, the program is delivered by a mix of self-paced (independent) online study (approx. 15 hours), live (facilitator led) online study (or face to face option) 3 days, and face to face training and assessment 3 days. A 3-month commitment is average, however individual training components can be spaced to suit the team and the school. Access to computer with internet access, camera and microphone is required for online training.
  • Factors to consider: Schools who wish to train a dog require either a staff member with a suitable dog who is willing to participate in training, or should the school decide to purchase a dog, a suitable staff member/primary handler must agree to house, train, and bond with the dog. Small group programs are for 10 participants and larger group single incursions are for up to 35 participants.
  • Australian context: The program has been developed and applied in Australia.


Item cost


Detailed cost

Training costs will vary according to the inclusion of additional training options.

All indicative costs are inclusive of GST.

The indicative cost for an individual to Certify to the foundational level (Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team) is $2,859 or with training and organisational support is $6,070.20.

The indicative cost for a team of 3 to Certify to the foundational level (Visiting Therapy Dog and Handler Team) is $8,577 and organisational support is $10,689.

Interventions are priced at $4,900 for 8 sessions, or $1,225 for a single 2-hour session, with 2 trained therapy dog and handler teams, including a qualified mental health professional. School staff are not required to attend small group interventions.