P.A.W.S in Schools

PAWS in Schools is a therapy dog training program that equips schools with the skills and knowledge to incorporate their own onsite therapy dog.

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

Program description

PAWS in Schools is a therapy dog training program for schools to incorporate their own onsite therapy dog.

Participants are required to participate in training with qualified trainers and animal behaviour experts to ensure each dog is trained to a high standard, meeting the Service Animals Australia Essential Standards for Therapy Dogs.

The program also provides handlers with an understanding of the appropriate strategies for using a therapy dog to support student wellbeing according to the PAWS Model for therapy dogs. The PAWS model has been developed for use in schools in consultation with:

  • educators
  • animal behaviour experts
  • psychologists, and
  • an occupational therapist.

Intended outcomes

  • Improved handler knowledge on how to effectively handle and manage a dog onsite at school
  • Children form a strong connection with the dog
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved staff and student mental health and wellbeing.

Program details

Target audience
  • Primary school students - upper
  • Secondary school students
  • Capacity building for primary school staff
  • Capacity building for secondary school staff
Program providerTherapy Animals Australia
Delivery mode
  • Face-to-face
  • Combination

*The mode delivered is dependent on a schools' location – face-to-face for schools located within 65 km of Bundoora and combination for schools greater than 65 km from Bundoora.

Implementation considerations

  • Target population: School staff undertake training and implement the therapy dog with their students.
  • Program adaptability: All the therapy dogs are trained to meet the Service Animals Australia Essential Standards for Therapy Dogs and as such these do not change between schools. The way the dog is integrated into a school is based on a specific school’s situation. Similarly, the roles a dog performs are designed to cater for each school’s individual needs.
  • Staffing: The minimum number of participants required is one. Training and workshops are typically during non-teaching time, however if this will not be possible then the school will need to have backfill in place to cover participating staff.
  • Training requirements: The time commitment for participants is approximately 4 hours per week for a primary handler (one hour in direct contact with Service and Animals Australia staff and 3 hours of their own
    time) and approximately 1-2 hours per fortnight for secondary handlers. If a school is utilising online delivery of the program a webcam, personal computer, and space (i.e. classroom without students) is required. The face-to-face options requires a space i.e. classroom.
  • Factors to consider: School staff members need to be capable of handling and training a dog. Following completion of the 12-month program, ongoing support is available, and this support is charged at casual rates. Annual accreditation of the dog is also required to ensure that OH&S standards as well as animal welfare standards are met.
  • Australian context: The program has been developed and applied in Australia.


Item cost


Detailed cost

The 12-month program including one dog and up to 3 school staff is priced at $19,734.00 (inc. GST). The fees are billed on a monthly basis, with schools receiving an invoice each month.

Prices may vary according to the location of the school and the time it takes to travel there as well as if overnight accommodation is required in order to visit the school. Additional costs may include travel ($291.50 per hour inc. GST), accommodation ($302.50 per person per night inc. GST) and equipment ($352 inc. GST for one set of basic essential dog training equipment).