Is a mindDog really an assistance dog?

Yes, they are. mindDog’s are a type of assistance dog called a psychiatric assistance dog and are protected under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. A guide dog is covered under this act as it is trained to alleviate the effects of their handlers disability, being their vision impairment. In the case of a mindDog, the dog is trained to alleviate the effects of a different kind of disability.

What is the difference between an assistance dog and a therapy dog?

An assistance dog and a therapy dog are not the same thing. As stated on our definition of an assistance dog page, an assistance dog is trained to assist with a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (abreviated DDA). There are many different terms used to describe the different jobs that a dog may do and they are not all equal. Service dog: This is an alternative term for an assistance dog. Service dog is a term generally used in America while assistance dog is more often used in Australia and in legislation. Emotional Support Dog: Emotional Support Animals (abbreviated to ESA) are not recognised under Australian law. This term is vague and there are no requirements for an ESAs role or behaviour standards. This is because ESAs are not guaranteed access under the DDA, unlike an assistance dog. An ESA may support a person through depression, anxiety or another medical condition but this does not mean that the animal is specifically trained to do so; rather, they do so merely by their presence. ESAs under law are pets while assistance dogs are medical aids. ESAs are not required to meet any legislated standards, while assistance dogs are required to meet behaviour and hygiene standards. These dogs may also be called companion dogs. There are many benefits of having a dog for your psychological health and many experience increased mental wellness from owning a dog. ESAs are valuable in their own right, but they are different to assistance dogs. Therapy dog: A therapy dog is able to access places like schools, hospitals and retirement homes for the purposes of therapy. Therapy dogs are very beneficial for boosting moral and may have a positive psychological effect on the recipients. mindDog does not accredit therapy dogs; for more information regarding therapy dogs please visit DELTA. Other terms you may hear include working or helper dogs. Again, these terms are vague and are not accurate at describing a dogs level of training or role.

Why aren’t all mindDogs Labradors?

Is there anything wrong with Labradors? Absolutely not! We love Labradors! However, mindDog knows that assistance dogs can be any kind of dog, provided it is not a prohibited breed and the dog has a suitable temperament. But just because you have the freedom to choose whatever breed you would like, there are some things to look out for when picking a dog, see Choosing the right dog. Size, temperament and energy needs of breeds are all things that should be considered. mindDog has a range of successful assistance dogs that are not Labradors including but not limited to: Golden Retriever, Border Collie, Mastiff, Greyhound, Chihuahua, Bull Arab, Silky Terrier, Blue Heeler, German Shorthaired Pointer, American Staffy, Daschund. mindDog aims to raise awareness of how assistance dogs can differ in appearance. It is important not to judge the legitimacy of an assistance dog from their breed.

Which illnesses qualify for a mindDog?

If you have a medical practitioner who says you have a mental health disability, you qualify for a mindDog. Part 2 of the application form sets this out.  A medical practitioner can be a psychiatrist, psychologist, community health nurse or a GP.

We don’t accept people with a physical disability. There are other organisations which provide help.

What is a Public Access Test?

An annual assessment of a mindDog’s suitability. The Public Access Test (PAT) is an annual assessment of mindDog’s suitability as an assistance dog accessing public spaces.This test is used to access a dogs suitability within the public domain. To view a sample PAT test please visit our resources page

What does the at home assessment involve?

This is not a pass or fail test. The at home assessment is designed to give us a glimpse of where your dog is at. Do not be concerned, this is not a “pass or fail” assessment, rather a tool used by mindDog to see how your dog behaves daily.

What if my dog is under 6 months of age?

mindDog currently accepts clients once their dog is 6 months of age and desexed. If you have a puppy or are waiting to get your dog desexed there are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself as a team prior to application. We recommend getting puppies into a puppy school to start off socialisation on a positive note. This is a good time to make contact with your local dog club. They can assist you to train your dog in basic obedience skills, these skills are essential once your dog works towards becoming an assistance dog. Give your dog lots of opportunities to have positive interactions with other people, dogs and environments. It is essential these experiences remain positive and allow the dog to build confidence. Pet friendly stores (keep an eye out in your area for the ones available to you) are a great way to work on building confidence and practicing before you receive your trainee vest. Remember, it’s a journey. You and your dog are a team. Try to focus on building a positive relationship built on trust before moving on to more difficult public access skills and specific training that begins when you receive your vest.

Where can’t a mindDog go?

Some examples of where a mindDog (trainee or certified) can legally be refused access includes commercial kitchens, operating theatres and some “locked” psychiatric wards. It should be noted that whilst a mindDog is allowed in all areas of public spaces, this rule does not apply to a person’s private residence or property. In these places you may be denied access.

When your mindDog is in any public areas they should be clearly identified in their yellow and blue assistance dog vest and you should carry their official identification card to help alleviate any access challenges you may come across. Failure to do this means that if you do experience an access issue we will be unable to assist you.

For those wanting to travel overseas with their mindDog this is a possibility however you need to investigate the country you are travelling to quarantine regulations as well as that country’s laws. If you are travelling internationally on an overseas based airline, you will need to contact that carrier directly to establish what their regulations and procedures require. See the AQIS website for quarantine information. Please be aware that we are unable to assist with access issues in another country other than Australia. The same consideration needs to be given when you are re-entering Australia as there are strict protocols in place by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as they are responsible for managing the biosecurity risk. You will need to consider things like departmental fees, veterinarian paperwork or a possible quarantine period.

Please note that while a mindDog can travel on planes and cruise ships there will be extra paperwork that will be requested before you can travel. If you are planning to fly or going on a cruise, please contact You should also be aware that an airline cannot charge you extra for taking your assistance dog in the cabin if approval is given however if the dog is deemed to be a risk to the safety of the crew and passengers they might have to travel in the cargo hold and not in the cabin. You will need to check with the airline if there will be an extra charge. This may occur if the airline deems your dog to be too large to fly in the cabin. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) have collated regulations in relation to the carriage of animals on an aircraft which can be found under regulation 256A of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988(CAR) however assistance dogs other than guide dogs and hearing dogs are not mentioned in this Act. Flying with your mindDog is possible however you will need to get approval from the airline. The steps to gain approval will vary from airline to airline. This is because each airline has their own procedures in relation to assistance dogs that address risks specific to their operations. Travel in the aircraft cabin is always subject to final approval of the operating Captain of your flight regardless of approval from the airline. You should be aware that if an airline won’t grant you approval to travel with your assistance dog, CASA will not intervene. Please note that only a dog that’s passed its PAT (no trainees) can fly and there are weight and size limits. If you feel like you have been discriminated in relation to flying with your mindDog you can contact Sarah Kemp on 0476 648 101 or if it is less urgent

Legally, Trainee mindDogs have the same access rights as certified mindDogs. Though, Trainee mindDogs do have some limitations to where they can go during their 12 month trainee period. We do not recommended that Trainee mindDogs go into the following places, due to the fact that they can become very easily overwhelmed and thus cause many problems with their confidence and training further on down the track. These include Aircrafts (airlines will also only fly an Assistance Dog that has done a PAT), Workplaces and Hospitals (short visits are permitted).

Can a mindDog go into a workplace?

Trainees are not equipped to deal with the pressures of the workplace. mindDogs cannot attend the workplace whilst Trainees. You will have to take your dog on incremental visits to the workplace.
Before the mindDog enters the workplace we will do a site assessment to ensure that your dog will be safe and unstressed. We will introduce the workplace to what mindDog is and does.
Your employer must introduce the other employees and talk about etiquette around a working dog. For those who don’t want attention drawn to themselves , it should be discrete.
Your dog must have access to appropriate toileting areas, three hourly breaks and access to clean water, a mat or place to rest that is adjacent to you.
The dog must always be in vest and with her handler. This is one of the only times the dog can be working but not on lead.

What if they don’t let me in?

Sometimes you may not be allowed in into a venue or area with your mindDog. Unfortunately discrimination does occur. Always carry some information to give to places of business etc. on your rights. “But we serve food” is not legally a reason to deny access. Provided you dog is clean and behaving appropriately anywhere the general public is allowed, your dog is allowed also. If you continue to have issues, please email us to escalate the issue and get further support. See one of the above FAQ’s on “Where can’t a mindDog go?” and also look at the Public Access Test PDF regarding the section on access.

Additional information, including the mindDog Access Issues phone number and email address is at Access Issues.