Welcome to P.E.T.S

Pets Education Training Support is a professional dog training business located in Swan Bay, Richmond Valley in the beautiful Northern Rivers of NSW.

P.E.T.S primarily provides an assistance dog coaching service for people diagnosed with a disability, who are aiming to train their own dog to Public Access Test (PAT) standards.

We service our local area of Woodburn, Evans Head and Coraki, and travel between Ballina, Lismore, Casino, Lennox Head and Yamba offering our clients a high standard of personalised training and support.

assistance dog training

At P.E.T.S we use up-to-date, science-based, force-free training methods. This method of training helps to promote a positive relationship based on trust and understanding, which is paramount for creating the bond needed for an Assistance Dog team.

P.E.T.S ensures the handler and dog are supported throughout the training process and beyond into the handler and dog’s working life together. Our programs are flexible and customised to suit each specific team. The handler is guided step by step through the training process from understanding the theory behind how dogs learn, through to training specific tasks to support the individual’s needs.

We also offer private training for companion dog owners in the Northern Rivers who are needing assistance with basic manners or with training for emotional support/therapy (visitation) dogs. As well, we offer training for new puppy owners, ensuring they get off to the right start. Setting people up for a wonderful future with a well-mannered canine citizen is our primary goal.

We DO NOT perform Public Access Testing (PAT) for teams who have not completed training with us.

We DO NOT provide pre-trained Assistance Dogs.

Is an owner-trained Assistance Dog the right fit for me?

The first point to be aware of, is that I run a private business, which is not affiliated with a charity organisation. There are charges for the services that I provide, and you need to consider if you are financially equipped to take on this long term commitment. Training your dog to a high standard will require a considerable amount of money and if you are not prepared for this financial outlay then owner training may not be the right path for you.

Important points to consider…

WHAT IS THE SUPPORT YOU ARE AFTER

What aids or supports do you currently use to mitigate the effects of your disability? Can you describe how a dog would do a better job? Just wanting a dog that can go everywhere with you, is not a valid reason for needing an Assistance Dog. Write down what you would like the dog to be able to do for you and what tasks you believe they could be trained to do to help assist you. The trainer will then discuss these with you and whether or not they are realistic goals.

WILL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL BE INVOLVED?

Do you have support from a licensed health care professional regarding training an Assistance Dog? Are they prepared to communicate with the trainer to discuss your training needs during your journey together?

ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS REALISTIC?

Do you have realistic expectations regarding an Assistance Dog? It is a 24/7 commitment as your dog will be with you most of the time. It important to discuss this with family members to make sure everyone is on board. Also, are you prepared to have the public know you have a disability? Assistance Dogs attract attention and random questions from the public. Are you prepared to talk to members of the public about Assistance Dogs and their role in the community?

MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENTS

Will you be able to meet the dogs’ exercise, grooming, feeding, veterinary and play needs?

YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM

What is your support system? Do you have backup help with training your dog if needed? Do you have someone who can look after your dog if you are ill or hospitalised? What will you do if you need to attend long appointments, but your dog is not ready? Who will take your puppy during these times?

WILL YOUR DISABILITY IMPACT YOUR TRAINING?

Do you have a disability that will negatively impact the raising and training of your dog? Environmental factors play a big role in puppy development. People with certain levels of anxieties may not be good candidates for raising a puppy of their own for Assistance Dog work. Some pups may become anxious themselves and can be difficult to train to respond to anxiety attacks. Sometimes the purchase of an already fully trained Assistance Dog is more suitable.

DO YOU HAVE THE TIME NEEDED TO TRAIN YOUR DOG?

Will you have the time to train your dog every day? On average you will need to spend around 1-2 hours a day (in short bursts) working with your dog. Most people will need around 12-24 months of consistent training to get to a level needed to pass the Public Access Test (PAT).

TRANSPORT

Do you have access to transport to train your dog in different locations? This may be your own car, a friend or relative who can drive you around. You will initially train in your own home but will need access to places like parks and shopping centres for public access training.

The Dog

Firstly: MUST LOVE DOGS!

Be prepared for the life stages your dog will go through. From puppyhood, through adolescence and then your aging dog and it’s needs. You will need to navigate fear periods and behaviour challenges. Continue with maintenance training throughout their working life. Consider their changing needs as they age and prepare for retirement. Then finally, looking at the idea of purchasing and training a new Assistance Dog candidate. Not all decisions will be easy, but they are all important parts of the journey.

TRAINING YOUR DOG

Training your dog is a lifelong job. You never stop training (or learning). However, you put in a lot of hard work in the first few years. Dogs are generally not mature enough, physically, or emotionally, to cope with all the stress of Assistance Dog work until they are around 2 years of age. You need to be able to train your dog within your daily routine to progress through the different levels of training. Basic Skills – Advanced Skills – Task Training – Public Access – PAT – Maintenance Training.

It is a journey, not a race. Enjoy the ride. Don’t be in a rush to get to the finish line. Throughout the journey you are going to give your dog the necessary skills and experience needed to handle different situations and the ability to work in many different environments. Increasing distractions, working on generalising behaviours and teaching your dog how to relax and settle are all key points to cover. All of this

can be trained in pet friendly places like pet shops, bunnings, parks and cafes. There is no need to rush the dog into public access training until they are ready.

Handling the pressure

Can you handle the pressure of owner training? The training process is difficult and time consuming. You will be constantly educating the public about Assistance Dog laws as they attract a lot of attention. You will also be required to maintain training notes and records. Training can be expensive and is ongoing. An important consideration is that the dog may not end up being suitable for Assistance Dog work. Even after you have put in a lot of time and money training it. If this happens, will you keep it as a pet?

AND NO… You can’t take your dog out EVERYWHERE STRAIGHT AWAY!

Final Thoughts…

Choose your breed carefully (BEFORE purchasing). See our ‘Thinking of getting a puppy’ page.

Research the breed of dog you choose including common health issues and breed characteristics

Be realistic with the expectations you have of your dog – they are not humans!

Choose an appropriate breed for your requirements: a chihuahua is NOT suitable for mobility support

The first 12 months of your dogs’ life are for letting them be a dog. Learning social skills, experiencing different environments, interacting with friends and family and learning good foundation skills

You need to learn to speak dog! Learn the early signs of stress and understand your dogs’ body language

What people are saying…

I’m so grateful my trainer recommended P.E.T.S. I had gotten as far as I could with my trainer but needed to find someone in the region that could take us to the next level to certify my dog as an assistance dog. Meeting the P.E.T.S team for the first time I was nervous but that quickly dissipated with their warm demeanour. They were not militant trainers but trainers looking to bring out the best in both dog and handler.

Finding an organisation that could take us on board was challenging but then to find Amanda and Louise, who are not only local but brilliant, seemed a miracle. I’m so grateful for the work they put in, not just in our sessions but supporting us outside of our lessons. I know that they will stand up for our rights in public and in accessing places. I know that my well-being and the well-being of my dog are their priorities and I just can’t even express how much this freedom means to me.

Kelly

I have had Amanda as my trainer for about 7 months now. Amanda has been wonderful in helping me understand what and where I have been making mistakes in what my fur friend was trying to tell me, so we are now becoming more of a team. If you have a puppy or a trainee assistance dog like me, I can recommend you give Amanda a call. She will help you understand your dogs.

Dale

Amanda Hayward has been training my girl Cricket with me for the past year. She is absolutely an incredible and gracious trainer who understands dogs and their potential. Any obstacle presented in training Amanda was able to find a new and easy route around, she never once doubted Cricket and never asked too much of her. Amanda is an amazing trainer and I can’t thank her enough for all she has done for me.

Layla

Amanda is amazing at what she does. Making sure you’re set up for success from the beginning. Zahli has come so far with Amanda’s guidance, and we look forward to every visit.

Ella Grace

Amanda is EXCEPTIONAL! Her advice is always spot on, and her knowledge and experience is unparalleled. Amanda practices what she preaches, so her methods are tried-and-true. We could not navigate this journey without her!

Megan Biggin

From our first conversation, Amanda has made training our labradoodle stress free, uncomplicated, and tailored to our needs. She has such a great connection with both people and animals and her training plans are simple and very well organised.

Robyn

Nala, my Cavoodle and I have been training with Amanda from PETS for 1 year now. We are making steady progress thanks to Amanda’s amazing knowledge of dogs and their behaviour.

Amanda’s training is very thorough. From the training notes she provides after each session to her outstanding knowledge of the requirements for assistance dogs. Amanda is a joy to work with, offers a warm and supportive environment and is a very reliable and honest person.

Kerri