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FAQs for Schools

Schools Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQ's

Where can I find the program Overviews?

Our incursions are tailored to support small groups of students (maximum of 10 per group) facing challenges connecting with their school environment. We offer a variety of programs, each designed to address specific needs while fostering a more positive and conducive learning atmosphere within the school.

You can find more information here:https://www.caninecomprehension.com.au/incursion-options

Can you adapt the curriculum to suit individual group needs?

We'd like to know about the specific needs of your students and are prepared to adapt our curriculum and materials accordingly to provide tailored support.

What do the therapy dogs do in sessions?

The dogs have many jobs.  Their main goal is to be a friendly, calming presence and support young people in connecting and focusing so the mentor can do their job more effectively.  We aim to keep the emotional health and well-being of young people; here are examples of how we use dogs to do this:

  • In mindfulness sessions, young people learn 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.

Our Facebook and Instagram pages are a great source of photos of our sessions - this will give you a better understanding of the dog's role in our work.

What locations do you operate in?

Canine Comprehension’s Vision is to provide accessible support to young people through dog-assisted learning. ‘Accessible support’ can be understood in our value statement: Flexible Service; if our client's circumstances change, we change with them. This is why we try to service as many Melbourne suburbs as possible. We understand that when you are looking for services to support your young people, it’s a big decision. We want you to know we take that support seriously.

We are also expanding into Regional Victoria; contact us to see if your regional area is covered.

Where in the school is the program run?

In consultation with your school, we will work together to determine the most suitable time and location that aligns with your school's and student's needs. Typically, we require a classroom-sized space for flexible seating arrangements and access to an outdoor area for certain activities.

Are you able to run programs in Specialist Schools?

Yes. Our incursions are available for specialist schools. We have tailored a range of incursions to suit varying needs best. We have experienced mentors, and we understand that every school is different. If you would like more information, you can see our Specialist Schools page here.

What if a child is afraid or allergic to dogs?

Fear: We pride ourselves on our approachability and dedication to inclusive learning spaces.  If a child is afraid of dogs, we will calmly work on that fear at a pace the child feels comfortable with. We have had great success diminishing the fear of dogs in our students because our dogs are obedient and carefully handled by the mentor. 

Please let us know if a student involved with us may be afraid of dogs and the depth of that fear.  We may arrange a meet and greet where the dog is instructed to drop and stay still, allowing the child to approach the dog in a less threatening environment.  If the fear is more significant, we can discuss ensuring a reasonable distance between the dog and the student.  Communication is the key here. Let us know, and we will do our best to improve the solution.  In almost all cases, the student with a previous fear of dogs has accepted our dog due to its calm nature and high-quality training.

Allergies: Health concerns are taken very seriously at Canine Comprehension.  Before commencement, we ask the school to inform us of any students with health concerns. This way, our mentors are aware of any students who may have a health issue triggered by a dog in the room.  Depending on the severity of the health issue, the student may have to avoid contact, wear gloves, keep a safe distance, or, in rare cases, be unable to participate in this type of intervention. To limit allergens, dogs are kept extremely clean.  Their teeth brushed, and their claws filed.  They are also wiped down before, during and after sessions. When the dogs do not interact, they lie on a special mat to avoid loose hair falling on the floor.

Who needs to know the dogs are coming to the school?

Schools should inform their staff when a Canine Comprehension mentor and therapy dog will visit. Our dogs are easily identifiable by their working harnesses, and staff members wear a distinct uniform. It's important to reiterate that our dogs are specially trained, up-to-date with vaccinations, undergo regular health checks, and have comprehensive medical records.

Do you need a staff member to be present in the program?

We require a staff member to observe (and sometimes participate) in the sessions. Although active participation is not always necessary, sessions are typically more effective when students are encouraged by familiar adults. If staff members are rotated, it's essential to brief the new observer on what to expect during the sessions. An adult's presence at each session is crucial for safety and reporting.

What type of space do I need for the program?

To create a comfortable and conducive learning environment, we require a quiet room with sufficient space for participants to sit in a large circle, often on the floor. Weather permitting, we may also utilise an outdoor space for certain activities.

What materials do the students need to bring?

Written materials for the sessions will be pre-printed and supplied to the group during the first session. These materials will be at the school for use during subsequent sessions, so please ensure they are available for the mentor before each session. Students are encouraged to bring their writing and colouring materials.

How does the program fit around our school timetable?

In the booking form, you provide your bell times and three preferences for times that will work well with your timetable, and we will structure programs around this. If your bell times are unusual, don’t worry; we are experienced in this situation and have solutions.

How long does a program run?

Each program has to cover eight sessions, each for 50 minutes.

What is the maximum number of students in a group?

Ten students

Why is the 10-student maximum so important?

This limit has been carefully chosen to ensure the following:

Engagement: Smaller groups allow for a more personalised and engaging experience for each student. It allows them to have meaningful interactions with our therapy dog, creating a memorable and educational encounter.

Effective Classroom Management: Managing a smaller group is significantly more manageable, ensuring the session runs smoothly and productively for students and our canine companion.

Delivery of Content: With limited participants, we can effectively deliver the session's intended content and educational aspects. This ensures that every child benefits from the experience.

Safety: Safety is paramount for both the children and our therapy dog. In larger groups, the potential for chaos and unpredictable behaviour increases, which can compromise the safety of all involved.

Our experience has shown that running larger groups can disrupt the school community, leading to chaotic situations that are challenging to manage. Additionally, it can need to meet our client's expectations, such as parents and guardians, who expect high professionalism and safety in our sessions.

What if my school's student numbers are much more significant?

We can run multiple programs over the same or multiple days, provide multiple mentors and therapy dogs,  or run our other service Dog for a Day. Contact us, and we can work through these options with you.

When do programs start?

We start all of our programs the first week of term.  We do this to leave a few weeks at the end of term if we are required to make up any postponed sessions due to school timetable clashes or staff illness.

Why should our school prioritise experience when choosing a dog-assisted learning partner? 

Experience is crucial when selecting a dog-assisted learning partner for your school for several reasons: 

  1. Expertise and Industry Leadership: Companies with years of experience, like Canine Comprehension, have established themselves as leaders in the field. With a decade of operation, we have honed our expertise, setting the standard for excellence in dog-assisted education.
  2. Quality and Safety Standards: Over time, experienced companies have developed rigorous standards for ethics, curriculum quality, and safety. At Canine Comprehension, we prioritise the well-being of both students and therapy dogs, ensuring that every interaction is meaningful, safe, and aligned with educational objectives. 
  3. Trained and Experienced Mentors: Our mentors, with backgrounds in education, social work, mental health, or youth work, bring a wealth of experience to their roles. This enables them to tailor programs to meet the unique needs of each school while maintaining a focus on learning outcomes and success criteria. 
  4. Avoid Imitation Programs: Inexperienced or imitation programs may lack the depth and quality of a well-established company like Canine Comprehension. Beware of programs that prioritise superficial interactions or place undue pressure on therapy dogs without regard for their well-being. 

Experience matters! It ensures that your school receives a comprehensive and enriching educational experience that meets the highest standards of quality and safety. With Canine Comprehension, you can trust that your students will benefit from a decade of expertise and industry leadership in dog-assisted learning.

Booking FAQ’s

What happens when I put in a booking form?

You can book here if you like. Once a booking form is received, we will check for the Mentor's availability. If we have a Mentor available, we will contact you to move forward with finalising the booking.

We'll contact you with other options if we still need to get a Mentor available. These may include adjustment of the time or day or going onto our waiting list.

Can I arrange a meeting with Canine Comprehension and my decision-makers?

We welcome it! If you would like to chat about how the sessions will run and any particulars to your needs, please Click here to book an online chat with our CEO, Sarah.

On the Day FAQ’s

What time will you arrive?

Our mentors and therapy dogs will arrive 15 minutes before your program starts time to sign in and set up. If, for some reason, they are running late, our admin team will give you a courtesy call to let you know.

Where shall the supervising staff member meet?

Our mentor and therapy dog will be in your admin office 15 minutes before the beginning of the session.

What space do you need?

A classroom, where desks and chairs are moved to the side, is all we need.  We often sit on the floor with the students so they have greater access to the therapy dog. Sometimes, there may be an opportunity to complete some of the activities in the sunshine; if there is a space for the group to go outside, that would also be appreciated.

Could you let me know if you are insured?

Yes, absolutely.  You can download all our risk assessments and compliance documents here.

Do you think supervision from the school is necessary?

Yes, legal supervision is a top priority. A school representative must be present for each session; this is non-negotiable. We find that when the same person who knows the students can be part of the group, both adults and students get more out of the program. We work closely with schools to ensure a secure and enriching environment, upholding high standards for safety and well-being. Your students' care and security are our utmost concern.

What do we need from you?

Parking: We have a lot of equipment and will lead the therapy dog. I would greatly appreciate very close parking options.

Collaboration: We love to chat with you about your expectations when we arrive so that we can meet your student’s learning needs.

Terms & Conditions FAQ's

How much do the programs cost?

We've included our all-inclusive prices here.

Are there hidden charges?


For our regional school, some travel charges may apply.

What is your cancellation policy?

Please honour scheduled appointments. Makeup sessions are arranged for public holidays.

For cancellations, a two-week notice is required. We'll reschedule, but the session is forfeited if it is impossible.

If you would like to cancel, please email admin@caninecomprehension.com.au.

How are your services appropriate for our students?

Firstly, evidence is essential and can be found here.

We believe in Transparent Operations: Accessible Documents for Clients & Stakeholders.

All staff hold a WWCC and can provide evidence when required.

We also suggest taking note of our safety and inclusion statements

And finally, by reading through our programs, you can decide which suits your students.  You can book several programs in a single term, which we are happy to facilitate. 

After the Program FAQ's

How do I give feedback?

We want to improve our services and would love your help. Please click the link below and fill in the short Client feedback form.

Click here for staff evaluations.

Click here for case studies.

Thank you so much for helping us improve our services. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact the office.

Is there any follow-up information we could send to parents/guardians?

Feel free to use our template:

Your young person has now completed the Canine Comprehension School Group Program. Your child’s involvement in this program is another significant step in allowing them to explore their emotional expression and connect positively with their learning environment.  Your child may have more positive feelings about themselves and school through weekly attendance. 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. 

Topics your child would have explored through the program:

  • Motivation - e.g., what motivates us, internal vs. external motivation; what motivates the dogs; how can we use motivation and incentives to promote positive thinking and behaviour.

  • Feelings - e.g., what they are, what we call them, how we express them, the benefits of sharing with others, and strategies for managing strong ones. 

  • Thoughts - e.g., what is positive vs. negative thinking; how does our thinking affect how we feel and behave; what control do we have over our thinking? 

  • Communication - e.g., how we respect others when they are talking; effective ways of getting the attention of others; strategies for boosting confidence when speaking; actively practising through teaching commands and tricks to the dog. 

  • Mindfulness - e.g., following a guided meditation, colouring, journalling or writing; drawing.

What this means:

Students have been given a greater awareness of their feelings and how to name them. They have been encouraged to communicate these feelings to people through productive means (such as talking and sharing) rather than unhelpful means (acting out, yelling, swearing or physically hurting others or property).  They have taken time to identify strategies to help when feeling strong or negative. They may have even started practising these strategies in our weekly sessions. 

What you might notice:

  • Your child starts to talk more about their feelings and has words to name them. 

  • Your child shares details about the dog and the things they have taught the dog to do. This is likely accompanied by excitement, but they could also express frustration that they aren’t achieving what they had hoped. 

  • Your child explains that they need time or space from you. This could be a coping strategy they are trying to implement to manage strong feelings positively. 

  • Your child’s mood hasn’t improved, perhaps just on the days of the Group Program.

What’s helpful for you to know: 

We talked a lot with students about strategies and techniques they can use to reduce negative feelings and increase positive ones. It can be helpful for children and young people to have a few supportive people who know these strategies and techniques. As such, could you ask your child about one or two of them so that you can suggest a tool to help when they encounter a challenge? 

Anxiety is a genuine concern for children and young people and is alarmingly common. They will feel more supported to deal with their strong feelings if the people around them validate their experiences and show understanding.  Refrain from saying, “Don’t worry about it” or “Brush it off” and instead demonstrate support through statements such as, “That must be hard” or “Tell me more about that”, even if you can’t truly understand what they’re going through. 

What if you aren’t sure how to respond? 

  • Be curious. Ask questions and show a genuine interest. 

  • Take the time to listen. You don’t have to have all the answers, but a listening ear can go a long way. 

  • Check in with your child regularly to let them know you care and haven’t forgotten what they shared or how they feel.

  • If you would like to explore more professional support, give your child a choice rather than forcing them into something they don’t want to do. 

  • Explore some of the websites targeted explicitly to supporting parents or guardians with their child’s mental health concerns, detailed below.

If you feel your child could benefit from ongoing individual support, you can contact them about their mentoring; you can find the details here.

How can I refer a student for individual mentoring?

We work with young people K-12 throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria.

The most straightforward way teachers, parents, legal guardians or caseworkers can access our services is by completing our booking form:

NDIS information costs and other important information can be found here.