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Pawsitive Squad CIC

Paws of Hope, Paws of Love, 

Paws of Life


Specialist Team (therapy) Dogs Program


Following a successful revamp of our assistance dog program we are now revamping our therapy dog program as our specialist team dog program. The term 'therapy dog' has become so overused in so many contexts to mean a diverse range of dogs with varying training and jobs which do not remotely represent what our program offers,  hence the rebrand! 

The programs new name better represents what our very special dogs are trained to do - provide specialist canine assisted activities & therapy, working with qualified health, care and education professionals to support teams (groups) of young disabled people within a variety of settings. 

Our fully comprehensive program provides specialist team dog handlers with all the skills and knowledge they need to provide our signature canine assisted activity programs for children & young people with SEND including health and safety training, handling skills, the specialist program contents, canine emotion and welfare and more.

We have one intake of specialist team therapy dogs a year in September. Specialist team dog training will take 10 months, with your final assessment taking place in July. All clients are required to travel to Derby or Nottingham for your final assessment, through annual reassessments from then can be done virtually via zoom. 


Membership contents & fees

For specialist team dogs in training (from September till July, the first 10 months on the program) the monthly membership fee is ¬£20 per month. Your monthly subscription includes:

  • Access to 2 virtual group specialist team dog classes per month 
  • Access to 2 virtual group obedience and handling skills per month
  • All assignments, assessments & certificates
  • A one to one 30 minute catch up every 3 months.
  • Virtual learning modules for self guided education
  • Template worksheets, risk assessments, consent forms and other paperwork youre likely to need for you dog to work within your professional environment.
  • Weekly parent & professionals chat & activity sessions as a chance to socialise and ask advice for other families and professionals with working dogs
  • Weekly live themed Q&A sessions.
  • Working jacket and lead sleeve hire

For fully trained specialist team dogs, the monthly membership fee is ¬£7.50 per month. Your monthly subscription includes:

  • Annual reassessment 
  • A one to one 30 minute catch up every 3 months.
  • Virtual learning modules for self guided education
  • Template worksheets, risk assessments, consent forms and other paperwork youre likely to need for you dog to work within your professional environment.
  • Weekly parent & professionals chat & activity sessions as a chance to socialise and ask advice for other families and professionals with working dogs
  • Weekly live themed Q&A sessions.
  • Working jacket and lead sleeve hire.

Eligibility Criteria


If you wish to join the program but your dog is under 8 months old or hasn't perfected the obedience behaviour or still jumps up etc then we first recommend you complete the preapplication course which should give you the skills and training to get your dog to the standard required to be eligible for the specialist team (therapy dog) program. To join the pre-application course, please book on the events page. 

To be eligible to apply to join our specialist team dog program your dog must:

  • be at least 6 months old
  • be able to sit, lie down, wait for food, leave items on verbal cue, stay, recall around no distractions and walk on a loose lead.
  • tolerate a full head to toe examination, teeth brushing and groom without showing excessive fear or any aggression. 
  • be fully vaccinated, worm and flea treated with a product recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Have had a fully vet check within the last 4 months confirming your has no underlying health conditions which make them unsuitable for work.

Your dog must NOT:

  • toilet inside (still have accidents)
  • Jump up at people when on lead
  • Bark at people outside of the home
  • Bark at other dogs when on lead 
  • Show any aggression
  • Show excessive anxiety
  • Puppy bite 

You (the handler) must:

  • be a professional (either employed, self employed or in a long term volunteering position) who, as part of your client cohort, support under 25 year olds with additional and alternative needs or disabilities.
  • be able to meet all of your dogs health, welfare and care needs including costs as a household.
  • only handle and train your dog using positive techniques only (no 'balanced' or aversive training is permitted at Pawsitive Squad).
  • must be able to commit to virtual classes on Wednesday evenings.



Program structure

Specialist team dog training is split into two sections - Foundation and advanced training. The foundation training module takes 3 months and contains 6 live zoom classes as well as self directed learning through the virtual learning area and 6 assignments to complete. The advanced specialist team dog training takes  6months to cover the three mandatory canine assisted activity programs which are called flourish, unite and care. You then have the opportunity to do up 3 other canine assisted activity modules, if you wish once your dog is a fully trained specialist team dog. 

In the foundation specialist team dog training we will cover:

  • Canine emotions and how to respond
  • Handling skills 
  • Welfare 
  • Enrichment, routines and consistency
  • Dog training techniques and skills
  • Preventing and responding to undesirable behaviour
  • Desensitising your dog to their new working environment
  • Canine care
  • Canine first aid
  • Health and safety including risk assessments, inform & consent, allergies etc
  • Canine welfare and safety education for young people with varying needs 
  • Planning and running canine assisted activity & therapy sessions with your specialist team dog
and more...

In the advanced specialist team dog training we will cover:

  • training you to run the flourish canine assisted activity program which contains 11 canine assisted activities which aim to help participants develop self awareness, explore emotional regulation & de-escalation strategies, develop trust and compassion and understanding of diversity and barriers to inclusion. 
  • training you to run the canine care canine assisted activity program which contains 10 canine assisted activities which aim to help participants to develop understanding of the responsibility of pet ownership, to develop canine care skills, to understand canine emotions and our responsibility to keep dogs happy, to explore animal welfare, understand the practical and financial implications of pet ownership and to develop basic dog training skills. 
  • training you to run the unite canine assisted activities program which contains 6 exercises which aim to encourage team work, exploring the value of putting team aims over personal aims, develop leadership  and empower young people to view every one as an individual - highlighting each others strengths and supporting difficulties. 


Once you've completed all of your training, there is a face to face group day practical assessment which takes place in Derby or Nottingham. During the assessment, you will be asked to demonstrate some of the activities covered in advanced training and we will assess all aspects of your dogs training and behaviour to ensure they're ready to be working with disabled young people. Within the assessment we also will go through the paperwork check list to ensure you have appropriate insurance, risk assessments and other documents, though the specialist team dog handler remains solely responsible for ensuring these are accurate and up to date.

Ready to apply?

We are able to take a maximum of 12 dogs on our specialist team dog program per year, with spaces allocated on a first come, first served basis. If you're ready to apply please complete an application below and we will be in touch to confirm your acceptance onto the program. Our next intake begins on the 8th of September 2021.

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Pawsitive Squad is a registered community interest company (non profit organisation) number 1145 1119 (England and Wales)

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Pawsitive Squad CIC

2 Woodberry Grove

North Finchley

N12 0DR

enquiries@pawsitivesquad.co.uk

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