Therapy dogs at Taree Courthouse will start work in early 2019

Anna Scene, Kerry Webb and Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead with Zoe the Labrador.
Anna Scene, Kerry Webb and Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead with Zoe the Labrador.

Taree Courthouse will soon be a happier place for victims of crime and witnesses with news a team of therapy Labradors is in training.

The dogs will start work at the courthouse in early 2019 to provide comfort to those who feel anxious.

Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said the dogs will be a welcome addition to the courthouse.

“Lab tests indicate the dogs will be off the charts in terms of cuteness, sensitivity and cuddle-ability,” Mr Bromhead said.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT will also roll out the program at other NSW locations such as Gosford, Lismore, Manly and Orange. 

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT chief executive officer Dale Cleaver said the dogs provide companionship and physical comfort to children and adults struggling with challenges beyond vision impairment. 

“Our dogs are already supporting court users in Manly and I’m looking forward to seeing our dogs bring comfort and companionship to court users in Taree,” Mr Cleaver said

Therapy dog training at a glance 

At approximately eight weeks of age, puppies are placed with volunteer ‘puppy raisers’ who are supported by Guide Dogs staff to raise them in a loving home environment.

During this time, puppies undertake important foundation training including enrichment and puppy development activities.

As the pup matures, support and training is tailored to suit the dog’s developmental needs. Puppies remain with their raisers until 12-14 months of age, when they return to the Guide Dogs Centre for assessment and training.

It is around this time dogs are matched to roles best suited to their individual strengths, although reconsideration of roles may occur at any time during assessment and training.

Dependent upon what skills and behaviours a therapy dog requires (in addition to the 12 months training they receive during puppy raising) specific training may take anywhere from four to eight weeks.

During training, the team expose the dogs to mobility equipment, noises, traffic, car travel, cafés, children, other dogs, residential areas, rural areas, parks and water ways.

Basic obedience and home behaviour is also assessed and improved upon if required.

All training throughout the dogs’ lives is undertaken using positive reinforcement via food, physical and verbal rewards.