Therapy Dogs & Service Dogs | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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Therapy Dogs Program

Update: Unfortunately applications for the Therapy Dogs Program are currently closed due to the high volume of applicants on our wait list.
The Therapy Dogs Team is working hard to service new and existing clients and provide the best service possible.
Please continue to check our website for when applications have reopened.
We apologise if this has caused any inconvenience and look forward to assisting you in the future.

What is the Therapy Dogs Program?

The Therapy Dogs Program is a community service which has been offered by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for over 30 years. The program aims to assist members of the public whom may benefit from a therapy dog but don’t have the time, capacity or resources to raise and train an appropriate dog themselves.

It carefully matches the client to the Therapy Dogs labrador that is best suited to their needs and surroundings for the best likelihood of a successful partnership.

Picture shows: Therapy Dog Graduates Chance, Yates, Shirley, Prince

Who can apply for a Therapy Dog?

Therapy Dogs may provide comfort, companionship and emotional support to individuals and those attending or residing in facilities whom experience behavioural, emotional and mental health conditions, physical disabilities, or isolation caused by age or illness.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT currently offer two Therapy Dog programs: Therapy dogs for individuals and Therapy dogs for residential facilities. Guide Dogs offer a world class program that brightens up the days of Australian's who need it most.

Individual Therapy Dog Program

The primary role of a Therapy dog for individuals is to provide companionship and emotional support to those whom might benefit.

What qualifies for emotional support of a Therapy Dog?

Current and past applicants have included children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, San Filippo Syndrome, Global Developmental Delay, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, early onset dementia, vision impairment, hearing impairment, stroke, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and acquired brain injury to name a few.

Residential Therapy Dog Program

The primary role of a Therapy dog for a residential facility is to provide companionship and emotional support on a broader scale to appropriate facilities such as schools, nursing homes, psychologists, counsellors and rehabilitation clinics. Therapy dogs placed in residential programs have also been assessed as suitable to be in and around busy environments and are matched with their specific role in mind.  

Therapy dogs placed in facilities require a Primary Carer who will take the dog home with them after their day ‘at work’. We do not place dogs in facilities on a permanent basis.

Both Individual and Residential Therapy Dog applicants are required to provide a secure and loving home with adequate fencing and shelter and allow the dog to spend time in and sleep inside the home. Therapy dogs have been raised to be with people and as such should not be left alone for more than 4 hours a day most days of the week.     

How do you qualify for a therapy dog?

Our Residential Therapy Dog Programme self-assessment questionnaire for therapy dogs from a residential point of view can assist your suitability and readiness for a dog from our therapy dog program. Annual cost estimates of dog care and maintenance is also provided to understand the ongoing financial commitments.

How can I get a Therapy dog?

Unfortunately applications for the Therapy Dog Program are currently closed due to the high volume of applicants on our wait list. The Therapy Dog Team is working hard to service new and existing clients and provide the best service possible. Please continue to check our website for when applications have reopened. We apologise if this has caused inconvenience and look forward to assisting you in the future. 

What happens after I apply for a Therapy Dog?

  1. Upon receipt of your application, you will receive an Acknowledgment Letter from the Guide Dogs Centre.

  2. If an application is deemed unsuitable the decision will be communicated in writing to the applicant outlining why the application has been deemed unsuitable. The applicant has the right to appeal the decision.

  3. If the application is deemed suitable the applicant will be contacted within 6 weeks of receipt of application by a Client Service Officer (CSO) to discuss the application and to arrange an assessment.

  4. The assessment will be conducted in the applicant's home and generally takes 1-2 hours to complete. In the case of a residential application, both the home of the Primary Carer and the facility will be visited. This can be done on separate days if required.

  5. The CSO will review and discuss the Self-Assessment and details of the application. Additional relevant information may be collected an a practical assessment may be conducted. This may include a walk around the applicant's local area or to places where the applicant intends to take the dog. If the applicant moves residence after the assessment but before receiving a PAT dog, the new residence will need to be assessed as well. Support such as family members, friends and advocates are welcome to attend the assessment.

  6. Following completion of the assessment, the CSO will make a recommendation to the Therapy Dogs Team. The decision of the Team will be communicated to the applicant in writing.

  7. Successful applicants will be included in the PAT Waiting List until a suitable dog match is made.

Alternatively you can contact the Guide Dog Centre on (02) 4579 7555 or email admin [at]

. Please ensure that you have completed the Self-assessment form and read through the Therapy dog handler agreement and FAQs before contacting the centre.

What are the benefits of a Therapy dog?

Therapy dogs can improve the quality of life by including the following:

  • Increasing cognitive abilities: Interaction with therapy dogs has been scientifically proven to lower heart rate, increased speech and memory function and heighten mental clarity.
  • Increasing physical benefits which give, a sense of community and well- being, encouraging routine and commitment, and of course providing non-judgemental and unwavering friendship.
  • Stimulating physical stimulation and assisting with greater levels of self-esteem

Important Information

Therapy dogs are placed with clients in the capacity of a companion animal and therefore do NOT have public access rights. Although Therapy dogs are matched to clients based on a carefully considered criteria, Therapy dogs are not trained in behaviours to specifically assist with alleviating or mitigating a client’s health concerns and therefore are not considered an Assistance Animal (please see for more information regarding assistance dog standards and types).

Should you wish to take your Therapy dog into public places such as medical appointments, school grounds, café’s, etc. you will need to seek permission from each individual establishment which may or may not grant access. Therapy dogs are permitted in housing under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT complies with the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Companion Animals Act 1988 NSW Legislation in relation to welfare, training, allocation and public access of Therapy dogs.