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Calmer Classrooms & Happier Homes.

Supporting young people's well-being for learning readiness.

All about the kids

All about the kids

The most important thing in our world is the children, who, often, have been let down in the past. So, we offer only compassionate mentors to run our programs. Their dogs are the key to how we access young people, but the quality of these group programs comes from the curriculum and the expertise of the entire team.

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All about the individual

All about the individual

A transformative journey with our individualised sessions, where mentors and therapy dogs collaborate to foster resilience, motivation, and positive relationships, paving the way for success. Our NDIS Eligible programs have proven to impact learning outcomes, ensuring holistic growth and development. 

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All about the adults

All about the adults

We know caregivers face emotional and social challenges. Our team of highly qualified professionals offers understanding and compassionate guidance. Through our comprehensive and evidence-based sessions, we create a kind and supportive environment that empowers and refreshes caregivers.

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Meet the therapy dogs.

We imagine a world where young people are enthusiastic about school, driven by a love for learning and committed to uplifting their peers.

Marle

Marle

Born in September 2022, Marle (MAR-LEE) is a Golden Retriever Labrador cross who relishes tummy rubs and loves making new friends (canine and human alike). With her incredibly calm and friendly nature, Marle was always destined for a role helping people. Bred to be a Seeing Eye Dog, Marle’s sociability – including her affinity for children – called her down a different path. After Kendall and her family adopted Marle, she became a certified therapy dog at just 18 months old.

Neo

Neo

Neo has an undeniably captivating presence and is the perfect mentor in how to simply chill out. Despite Neo’s love of a good belly rub and ear scratch he is also very keen to please in the tricks department and will do almost anything for a game of fetch or a delicious treat. Neo is always there with a gentle paw to let you know you aren’t alone and to remind you that he’d like an extra pat, please.

Ned

Ned is an expert snuggler who has worked with his person, Helen, as a Therapy Dog for homeless young people and families experiencing domestic violence. Their specific interests are ADHD, Autism, Depression and supporting the family unit.

Fern

Fern is an expert at encouraging young people to seek healthy peer relationships. Her human, Juliet, has a background in teaching, recreation and sports management. Together they look for ways to help children flourish in different learning environments.

Jett & Ollie

Both dogs love allowing young people to improve their communication style by practising tricks and obedience. Along with their person, Alison, they work to provide children with the support to build confidence and skills that allow them to engage more positively in school and life.

Ruby

Ruby inspires her clients to love learning.  Her human, Amy, is an occupational therapist with a background in early intervention, community well-being and private practice. Amy and Ruby have a keen interest in skill development, problem-solving and positive resilience.

River

River‘s early life was a struggle; as a result, she wants to show children how to thrive through education. She works with her person, Sarah, who is interested in evidenced based practices that promote mental health, which improves the lives of children, parents and teachers.

George

George is all about children conquering their fears. His focus is on confidence and patience. His person, Judy, is experienced in managing young people's emotional, developmental, and mental health issues and is excited to help families affected by COVID lockdowns.

Boofred

Boofred wants his clients to love school. He encourages children to try new things and discover new ways of learning. His person, Melissa, is a primary school teacher passionate about thinking outside the box to create a happy and comfortable school environment.

Jonesy

Jonesy and his person, Sherice, specialise in advocating for neurodiverse children in mainstream schools. Sherice has further education in collaborative and proactive solutions and communication training.  They are passionate about ensuring that all children have access to quality education that meets their needs.

Ollie

Ollie is an adorable 8-month-old medium Groodle (Golden Retriever x Medium Poodle) who craves attention from everyone he meets. Ollie is a delightful goofball brimming with energy, yet remarkably calm when surrounded by kids.

Victor

Introducing Victor, the brilliantly clever Mini Poodle who has graduated with flying colours from Lead The Way Institute after completing an intensive therapy dog training course with his equally talented human, Mini. Together, they make an unbeatable team dedicated to teaching and encouraging children.

Bubbles

Bubbles' journey from hardship to happiness has enriched her life and touched the hearts of those she encounters. With her unwavering love for people, she continues to make a positive impact, leaving a trail of joy and smiles wherever she goes.

Ness

Ness, the full-blooded Kelpie, has her own captivating story of rescue. Saved from a farm in NSW as a "failed" sheepdog, this petite powerhouse is often mistaken for a puppy due to her small size. With boundless energy, Ness loves nothing more than sprinting around at top speed.

Life-changing school visits

CommBank Australian of the Day CEO Sarah: Unlocking Educational Goals with Dogs & Children. Improve Parental Peace of Mind.

Promoting community and literacy

Dog Ears: A Collaboration with Victorian Libraries. Friendly Furry Companions Enhancing Social & Emotional Outcomes, and Love for Books!

Innovation in education

CEO Sarah on Winning the Enterpunership, Innovation, and Leadership Award: A Unique Solution for Learning Readiness and School Success.

Testimonials

Many of the students involved are showing more persistence in their day-to-day activities. They seem more confident in dealing with their peers and are less anxious in the classroom.

- Teacher Primary School – Whittlesea

Students showing more persistence

"Some of the more anxious isolated students in particular have responded really well to the program."

Assistant Principal Primary School - Whittlesea

At the beginning of the program, the student was scared of Victor and would sit with his legs up on the chair so Victor wouldn't touch him. The student would also bring a familiar staff member along with him for support. As Mini was developing some self-confidence for the student, he was able to have a curiosity and was able to attend the session without his familiar classroom staff member and would eventually put one finger on Victors back. gradually throughout the sessions, the student developed enough confidence to sit on the floor with Victor and give him lots of pats, engaging in all of the activities. Each week when I go to collect this student, he shows excitement at the prospect of seeing Mini and Victor each week. He is starting to answer questions with more than 1 word answers and has been noticably smiling more.

From Fear to Friendship: A Journey of Confidence with Victor and Mini - Jacana School of Autism

'I Love Charlie and Jo!! It was a really good program and it helped me with a lot of things, even with finding new friends."

Grade 5 Student - Whittlesea

The confidence and engagement that the students displayed after each session. Each of the students left the program with strategies and skills that they can continue to use well beyond the program.

St Paul's Primary School - Kealba

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Dog Assisted Learning?

Some children have a hard time at school and struggle with learning and friendships.  Canine Comprehension support students in understanding their learning process better. A well-trained dog and a mentor will work with an individual or a group throughout the term. Through weekly attendance, young people may have more positive feelings about themselves and school. The presence of a dog can make awkward or tough conversations a little easier because the focus is not on the students. As a result, your child may feel less anxious, more in control of their emotions, or have made new friends.

Our focus is to:

  • Help them discuss their worries about learning            
  • Learn more about possible triggers                           
  • Learn strategies and develop confidence in managing them               
  • Practice mindfulness techniques                           
  • Assist young people in developing interpersonal and social skills, managing their emotions and empathy for others, and enabling better connections in their learning environment.

What are your qualifications and experience?

Our Director, Sarah, holds a Bachelor's as well as a Master's in Teaching.  Sarah writes all of the curriculum and pedagogy documents used in our programs.  She also consults closely with the tutors on educational and classroom management issues.

The Canine Comprehension team is a wealth of knowledge and invested in lifelong learning.  We aim to employ various educational and social justice backgrounds, such as teachers, social workers, occupational therapists, nursing, counsellors, and school administrators.  Our tutors have experience working with young people with various needs and enjoy the challenge of helping struggling learners connect with their education.  Please see our ‘meet us page to learn more about each tutor.

All of our Tutor / AAE dog teams have the highest certifications of Animal Assisted Therapy available in Australia.  Most are trained through Lead the Way Institute and are reassessed annually to maintain certification.  The tutors also have access to dog trainers, who can help them with improving manners, trick training and specific behaviour with their working dog.

All of our Tutors hold a current driver's licence, Working With Children Check and First Aid certificate.

What do the AAE dogs do in schools or mentoring sessions?

The dogs have many jobs.  Their main goal is to assist young people in calming, connecting and focusing so the tutor can do their job more effectively.  A few examples of how we use dogs are:

  • Mindfulness sessions teach young people breathing techniques by watching a snoozing dog.
     
  • Agility exercises, where young people have to problem solve and effectively communicate to get the dog through the course.
     
  • Games with the dog, where the young person has to work out more robust and weaker motivators for the dog.
     
  • Dog body language study, where young people discuss the zones of regulation the dog may be experiencing.

What is the evidence for using a AAE Dog?

ust petting a dog can reduce the petters blood pressure and heart rate (Get Healthy, Get a Dog, Harvard Medical School) and having a pet dog in the home was associated with a decreased probability of childhood anxiety (Gadomski AM, Scribani MB, Krupa N, Jenkins P, Nagykaldi Z, Olson AL. Pet Dogs and Children’s Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention).

For kids with anxiety and school refusal the use of the therapy dog as social lubricant cannot be denied (Menzies, 2003; Kogan, Granger, Gitchett, Helmer & Young, 1999; Baker, Pandurangi; Best, 2003).  There are numerous studies citing the benefit of being with a dog, they show that having a dog present will increase a persons likelihood of having positive social interactions with others. (Mallon, 1994; Hart, 2000) Studies where kids are able to take the dog for short walks (Fine, 2000) show improved therapeutic outcomes for clients.  

Studies have shown that learnings and effects from these AAIs can last well into 12 months after the client has worked with the dog (Barker et. al, 2003).  Hanselman (2001) recommends that group interventions with your people should consist of at least10 sessions to make sustained behaviour change.  Kogan, Granger, Fitchett, Helmer & Young, 1999 report that dog training intervention (just like the courses we run) resulted in improved pro social behaviour such as eye contact, smiling and posture and a reduction in negative behaviours.

Canine Comprehension also has their own independently collated research by School Focused Youth Service. You can read more here.

What is your diversity policy?

Canine comprehension has a welcoming attitude to diversity and is committed to embracing and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the education sector and allied health services. Canine Comprehension welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Partner Schools and Businesses

CBQ Financial Services
Cranbourne Secondary College Logo
Ferntree Gully South Primary School
Lalor Secondary College
Jackson School
Whitehorse Primary School
Westall Primary School
Health Ability
Western Port Secondary College
Fawkner Primary School Logo
Roxburgh Homestead Primary School
Frankston City Libraries
Web Ideas Logo
Truganina South Primary School
Melton City Libraries
Logo for Mullum Road Clinic
Ashwood Primary School
Member of the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations
St Pauls Primary School Kealba
City of Yarra
Crib Point Primary School

Awards

Canine Comprehension is a 2022 ROAR Silver Award Winner
Sarah Macdonald : Winner of the 2024 Great Companies International Women Entrepreneur Award
Lead Kindness Platinum Partner, Sarah Macdonald Canine Comprehension
Roar Award Finalist 2022