Trainers of Assistance Dogs Project

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Case for change

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.

This project will capture the skills required for animal trainers to specialise in Assistance Dog Training and embed these in units of competency and existing qualifications.

The need for this project emerged as part of consultation for the Pet Care & Animal Training Project in 2020. Stakeholders identified lengthy waiting lists for assistance dogs, but a shortage of adequately trained candidates, as well as potential future changes to state-based and NDIS licensing and regulation requirements which would require assistant dog trainers to potentially obtain formal credentials.

Accredited training, that utilises national units and qualifications, will support existing regulation and alleviate concerns associated with non-accredited trainers. It will also support the training and skills system to meet the high demand for assistance dogs, alleviate welfare concerns, and ensure readiness for changing regulatory environments.

The Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC) approved this project, out of the 2021 Annual Update to the IRC Skills Forecast (see pages 47-51).

The Animal Care and Management Industry Reference Committee (IRC) will oversee this project as part of their responsibility to support engagement with the sector, and to ensure the project meets industry stakeholder needs.

Skills Impact will manage this project, consistent with the 2012 Standards for Training Package Development.

Download Project Proposal (see pages 47-51)

 

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Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates. Make sure to select ‘Animal Care and Management’ as your industry of interest on the subscription form.

 

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).

Register your interest in the project

Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates. Make sure to select ‘Animal Care and Management’ as your industry of interest on the subscription form.

Relevant Occupation

Assistant Dog Trainer

Timeline

July-August 2021
Initial scoping

September-October 2021
Development of draft qualifications, skill sets and units

November-December 2021
Drafts available for broad consultation

February 2022
Validation of final drafts

March 2022
Finalisation of Training Package components

April 2022
Independent Quality Assurance, and Edit and Equity review of Training Package components

April 2022
IRC consideration for sign-off and submission for endorsement

Project Team
Danni McDonaldIndustry Skills Standards Portfolio Manager traindogs.project@skillsimpact.com.au
Diana McNaughtonIndustry Engagement Manager diana@skillsimpact.com.au
Anna HendersonIndustry Skills Standard Contractor
Opportunities for stakeholder input

Stakeholder input is appreciated throughout the duration of this project. The documents will be drafted in consultation with Subject Matter Experts and their networks. Opportunities to provide targeted feedback will occur when the draft materials are made available in November 2021, and again for validation of final drafts in February 2022. However, your feedback is welcomed at any time, and will help us in drafting the units.

It is important that training provides a skilled and flexible workforce for the future. The units need to reflect real work experience. So, if you work with assistance dogs or in the disability sector, Skills Impact appreciates your input and assistance.

Please register your interest in project updates and consultation opportunities by following the newsletter subscription link. Alternatively, contact the project team on traindogs.project@skillsimpact.com.auor 03 9321 3526.

N.B. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Webinars will be held to replace the face-to-face consultation workshops Skills Impact would usually host around Australia.

Stakeholder Consultation Process

A list of key stakeholder organisations has been identified for this project based on their industry role, size or specialty. Skills Impact will ensure contact is made with each of these organisations to seek their involvement and views on all draft skill sets and units. Consultation is not limited to the organisations on this list, they have simply been identified as the most, likely to have a key interest in the development and outcomes of this project

If you are aware of an organisation that you think should be involved, please contact the project team to ensure they are contacted by us.

  • Animal Care Australia
  • Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities
  • Animal Therapies Ltd
  • Assistance Dogs Australia
  • Australian Lions Hearing Dogs, Inc
  • Australian Support Dogs, inc
  • Australian Veterinary Association
  • Canine Essentials Pty. Ltd
  • Canine helpers for the Disabled inc
  • Centre for Service and Therapy Dogs of Australia
  • Delta
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Empower Dogs
  • Good Dog AAI
  • Graceful Dog Training
  • Guide Dogs Australia
  • Guide Dogs VIC/TAS, SA/NT, NSW/ACT
  • Guide Dogs WA (Western Australia) – Visability
  • Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs (Qld Gov)
  • Helping Paws Service Dog Training
  • In the Paws of Angels Inc
  • Integra Service Dogs Australia Ltd
  • K9 Assistance Australia
  • Leader Dogs for the Blind
  • MindDog
  • National Disability Insurance Agency
  • Office of the Victorian Skills Commissioner
  • Paws for Assistance
  • Personal Assistance Dog Solutions
  • Pet Industry Association of Australia
  • Pets Australia
  • Righteous Pups Australia, Inc.
  • The Royal Society for the Blind, Guide & Assistance Dog Service
  • Veterinary Nurses Council of Australia
  • Vision Australia

Development

An improved understanding of the benefits of assistance dogs has seen an increased number of people accessing them for support, for a broader range of conditions. The expansion of assistance dogs into fields covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and other health streams has also increased demand for greater regulation and skilled delivery of assistance animal training. Industry has also called for nationally recognised training so that workers possess the core skills to prepare dogs for a variety of purposes and peoples’ needs. Not for profit organisations such as Assistance Dogs Australia and Guide Dogs Australia have long waiting lists, which has seen more people access the services of independent dog trainers. It is important trainers performing this work possess the skills to work with dogs and people to achieve the best outcomes.

Industry subject matter experts are being consulted to define the skills required to train dogs for different environments and tasks, as well as to train people in how to care for their assistance dog. This will support industry in its efforts to have greater input, leadership and oversight into the training processes and accreditation for assistance dog trainers.

Subject matter experts have met to discuss the job roles and functions required for this work. Key skills requirements were discussed in relation to ensuring animal welfare, matching people with assistance dogs and compassion fatigue. Seven units and two skill sets have been drafted to incorporate these key skills requirements and are under review by the subject matter experts and a group of key contributors. The drafts will then be made available for broad stakeholder feedback.

Development outcomes and next steps

Draft units and skill sets that describe the skills required of trainers of assistance dogs will be made available on this webpage for broad stakeholder consultation and feedback mid-November, under the ‘Drafts Available’ menu above. Your input is welcome, please feel free to register your interest to keep informed of project updates and when draft documents are available for feedback.

 

Register your interest in the project

Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates. Make sure to select ‘Animal Care and Management’ as your industry of interest on the subscription form.

Drafts Available

Assistance dog trainers need to be skilled at working with dogs well as individuals with a range of disabilities. They need knowledge in canine behaviour, breed, characteristics, health and welfare, as well as the impacts of different disabilities that people have. They must also understand applicable legislation, risk management strategies, and public and workplace health and safety guidelines. There is an increasing demand for skilled trainers following the expansion of assistance dogs into fields covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). 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. Industry are being consulted as part of this project to define the skills required to train dogs for different environments and tasks, as well as to train people in how to care for their assistance dog. This will support industry in its efforts to have greater input, leadership and oversight into the training processes  for assistance dog trainers.

Draft units of competency and skill sets for trainers of assistance dogs are now available for your review and feedback. Please find these drafts listed below, divided into groups for ease of consultation.

We are seeking your feedback on whether the draft units and skill sets reflect the current skills standards and practices of the industry and whether job functions are accurately described.

We are especially interested in hearing your opinion about:

  • the correct use of terminology related to certain job functions, such as ‘coaching’ or ‘instructing’
  • the correct way to describe the health and condition of dogs, such as ‘dog wellbeing’ or ‘dog work/life balance’ or enrichment’
  • what would be reasonable and effective evidence of performance when it comes to assessment
  • whether group training in some units is appropriate.

A User Guide is also being developed to provide advice on delivering training based on the contents of these units and skill sets. We are interested in suggestions of suitable information to include in the guide, including information that may not be able to be captured within the units and skill sets.

The drafts will be available on this webpage for feedback from 26 November 2021 until 5 January 2022.

Feedback will inform the work on the final drafts which are expected to be available for industry validation in February 2022.

How to provide feedback

To view the document, please click on the expandable menu link below. You can submit your feedback online using our feedback hub, by email, or by taking part in a webinar.

Feedback Hub 

You can post comments directly on the draft units and skill sets as well as view any comments from others. Your comments will remain anonymous. Only Skills Impact internal staff and training package contractors working directly on the project can identify users. For more information, see our Privacy Policy. The feedback hub is also moderated to avoid misuse. For further details, see our Moderation Policy. 

Please follow these steps:

  1. Select the unit or skill set you would like to review. 
  2. You will be asked to register or login (this is a free account). Follow the prompts. 
  3. Once logged in, you will be able to post feedback directly on the document. 
  4. Download user instructions 

 Feedback via email

Of course there is always the option to email us your feedback if you prefer. You can attach the skill set with your track changes as feedback, or to provide general comments about the draft. There is a link at the bottom of the document group where you can download the Microsoft Word version of the skill set. Please email your feedback to traindogs.project@skillsimpact.com.au.

Consultation webinars

There is an opportunity to register for a consultation webinar, where you will be able to discuss the units and skill sets with the project team and other individuals from your industry. Click through one of the options below to register. The webinar dates and registration are following:

Monday 13 December 2021, 2:00 – 4:00pm AEDT

Monday 20 December 2021, 10:00am – 12:00pm AEDT

Training Delivery and Implementation Webinar

This workshop will have a stronger focus on discussing the delivery and implementation of the proposed new units, which may be of particular interest to trainers and assessors.

Thursday 16 December 2021, 2:00 – 4:00pm AEDT

Unit code and nameLink
ACMADT3X1 Select appropriate equipment for an assistance dog and handlerView draft unit and provide feedback
ACMADT4X1 Assess prospective handler’s suitability for an assistance dogView draft unit and provide feedback
ACMADT4X4 Instruct handlers with disability to train assistance dogsView draft unit and provide feedback
ACMADT4X5 Train dogs using operant and classical conditioning techniquesView draft unit and provide feedback
ACMADT5X1 Train dogs in specific and complex tasksView draft unit and provide feedback

Alternatively, you can email your feedback to traindogs.project@skillsimpact.com.au.

The draft units can be downloaded in Microsoft Word format by clicking here.

Skill Set code and name Link
ACMSS000X5 Assistance Dog Introduction Skill SetView draft skill set and provide feedback
ACMSS000X6 Assistance Dog/Handler Team Training Skill SetView draft skill set and provide feedback

Alternatively, you can email your feedback to traindogs.project@skillsimpact.com.au.

The draft units can be downloaded in Microsoft Word format by clicking here.

The units developed as part of this project are proposed for inclusion within selected animal care and management qualifications. A set of questions about the proposed inclusion of the units into qualifications has been uploaded to the feedback hub to collect your feedback on suitable placement.

Alternatively, you can email your feedback to traindogs.project@skillsimpact.com.au.

The questions can be downloaded in Microsoft Word format by clicking here.

Summary of Consultation to Date

The units of competency and skill sets have been drafted in consultation with Subject Matter Experts. They have considered the feedback that was received out of Workforce Functional Analysis workshops throughout September and October 2021. People with experience across the assistance dog training sector have participated and provided information on the skills and knowledge required for training of assistance dogs and working with people with disabilities. Drafts were developed and distributed back to all contributors for initial consideration and feedback, which has been incorporated into the drafts that are available for feedback from 24 November until 5 January 2022. Thank you to those who provided feedback during these activities.

Register your interest in the project

Subscribe to the Skills Impact newsletter to keep informed about project updates and opportunities to provide input and feedback.

 

Validation

This stage has not yet commenced

Finalisation

This stage has not yet commenced