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Trainers of Assistance Dogs Project - Skills Impact

Project Plan

Growing evidence and awareness for how assistance animals can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities is driving demand for more assistance dog trainers. It is a job role with one of the highest projected growth rates to 2024 which, at 10.5%, means there will be over 2,000 new entrants to the industry. Assistance dog trainers need to be skilled at working with both the dog and individuals with disabilities. It takes considerable investment to train an assistant dog, and not for profit organisations such as Assistance Dogs Australia and Guide Dogs Australia have waiting lists of over two years. For this reason, many people are turning to independent dog trainers. It is important that people undertaking this work are adequately skilled, to support higher success rates, a better return on investment and wellbeing outcomes for the dog and client.

The expansion of assistance dogs into fields covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and other health streams has brought an increasing demand for greater regulation and skilled delivery of assistance animal training. There are also widespread calls by industry for nationally recognised training to ensure workers possess the core skills to prepare dogs for a variety of purposes and client needs.

Assistance dogs are now supporting an expanding range of disabilities and impairments (e.g., epilepsy, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, mental ill-health, mobility and hearing and sight impairments). Trainers need to be skilled at training the dog to be ready for different environments and tasks, as well as training the client in how to care for their dog. They need knowledge in canine behaviour, breed, characteristics, health and welfare, as well as the impacts of different disabilities that their clients have. They must also understand applicable legislation, risk management strategies, and public and workplace health and safety guidelines.

National skills standards will support industry in their efforts to have greater input, leadership and oversight into the training processes and accreditation for assistance dog trainers.

Project Scope

This project proposes to develop up to 13 new units of competency and 2 new skill sets to address the skills required for animal trainers to specialise in Assistance Dog Training. The units could be included as a specialisation in the existing qualification (Certificate IV in Animal Behaviour and Training).

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