Tutor playing with her therapy dog why we do what we do Our thoughts on relationship building with our students Learn More about our funded animal assisted programs to facilitate supportive connections in the Mallacoota area and surrounding locations. We are beyond grateful for your continued support and loyalty to our school programs. We realise that people need both reliability and flexibility in our schedule, so we have come up with different ways for your schools to work with our programs. Learn More

Power is in the connection

Our highly trained educators conduct our programs to deliver calmer school environments

Our programs that we use are innovative and evidence-based, they are designed specifically for children who struggle to engage within their world. They may have behavioural issues or have been diagnosed with a disorder that inhibits them to socialise, collaborate or learn.

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We provide a calmer school environment through our tailored programs. We know that being able to provide a positive environment that is calm increases positive behaviours throughout the classroom, school and family environments.

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Parents & Carers

Parents & Carers

With early intervention, we can help your child to process the emotions they are currently feeling and help them to understand them in a safe environment. Our highly trained tutors and dogs offer a connection that some children are craving and can help to create surroundings that are conducive to learning.

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School Mental Health Fund

School Mental Health Fund

Schools will soon be able to use the new $200 million School Mental Health Fund for Canine Comprehension programs.

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Our Story

Canine Comprehension was envisioned through the personal experience of Sarah, who is the owner and director.

Sarah’s own journey of education was difficult as a child and through university. Even though she strived for excellence- she could never understand how she needed to learn. It wasn’t until her passion for teaching lead her abroad where she witnessed how other cultures successfully taught a range of children’s needs. 

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Case Study

17 year old male

James attends a special development school and has a moderate to severe intellectual disability, paired with a rare genetic disorder which presents as severe episodes.

James has shown continued improvement in his emotional regulation and has been engaging in more programs on a regular basis. He is expressing himself using verbal language more consistently and often asks when he will be seeing the dog again.


What is Dog Assisted Learning?

Some children have a hard time at school and can struggle with their learning and friendships as a result.  Canine Comprehension support students in understanding their learning process better. A well-trained dog and a tutor will work with an individual or a group throughout a term. Through weekly attendance young people may now 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 some new friends.

Our focus is to:

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

What are your qualifications and experience?

Our Director, Sarah holds a Bachelor as well as a Masters 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 life-long learning.  We aim to employ from a broad range of educational and social justice backgrounds, such as teachers, social workers, occupational therapists, nursing, counsellors, school administrators.  Our tutors have experience working with young people with various needs and enjoy the challenge of helping a struggling learner 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 behavior with their working dog.

All of our Tutors hold a current drivers licence, Working With Childrens Check and First Aid certificate.

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

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

  • Mindfulness sessions, where young people learn breathing techniques through 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 stronger 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 find a copy here

Words of Success

"The impact this kind of tutoring has had on my young people has been quite incredible.  

Sarah is well informed about children's educational practices and animal therapy, and the two mesh together to provide safe, secure learning environments for young people affected by trauma.  The use of an animal aid to engage with and bring a burst of happiness into these children's lives has seen them change and grow over time.  

Before Sarah became their tutor, there was little evidence to suggest any would take a pencil in their hand and write letters, let alone concentrate on anything that looked like book work."

Anonymous Carer

Associations, Compliances & Awards

Silver Stevie Award
MGA Insurance Group
Australian Small Business Champion Award Finalist
Working with Children Check
Animal Therapies Ltd
Business Council of Australia