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In Australia dogs that are used for Mental Health support are called either an Assistance Dog or a Therapy Dog, NOT a Service Dog as they are called in the USA. They are not the same in terms of legal access rights so its important to find out what will suit your needs best. There are a few options when in comes to the training of an assistance dog and laws differ from state to state however, there are some laws that are Federal and applied nationally.

Assistance Dog

Option 1 (the cheapest option and fastest) unless you are Military where the cost may be covered by DVA or your insurance company

I personally chose this method and used a local trainer then sourced an organisation that could do the PAT test for me

  • Select your own dog ideally between the ages of 6 months and 3 years
  • Don’t forget about the option of rescue dogs but ensure you have a professional assess them before you commit for suitability for your needs and trainability.
  • Train the dog yourself using the PAT (Public Access Test) for a guide
  • Use Delta training methodology (positive reinforcement training) there are plenty of trainers using this method.Purchase a training harness where you can attach patches eg: “In Training”, Do not PAT, Distract, Talk to me, Assistance Dog and once you have done your PAT test a patch you may have the option to put a patch on from them.
  • Your PAT is an annual test so you need to factor that cost
  • Desexing & vaccination of your dog is required and you will be required to prove this especially if you will be travelling on commercial aircraft either domestically or internationally. You may be able to obtain a discounted rate for desexing through organisations such as Animal Welfare League and R.S.P.C.A

Option 2

  • Apply for a fully trained dog, be prepared that there may be a significant wait list due to the dogs training typically taking up to 2 years. This may differ if the dog is a fast learner as mine was and completed in 1 year during which I was able to have him with me most of the time (except flying)
  • Once the dog has been trained, you need to be trained!
  • Again you will still be required to keep vaccinations up to date 
  • You will be required to sit an annual PAT Test

Here is a link to the top suggested breeds, chihuahua is not on the list but I can tell you he makes an amazing Assistance Dog so keep in mind it’s a guide only. Do your homework on any breeds you are interested in and ask your trained trainer for guidance based on your needs. Your Delta Trained Trainer can help you pick your dog.


Top 10 Best Psychiatric Service Dog Breeds

If you would like to know which organisations are available in your area or you would like more information, please call to speak with one of our team.

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