Assistance Dogs from Valinka
Breeding Labradors for potential Assistance and Therapy dog roles, guiding owner-trainers.
Dog roles

Breeding for Assistance Dog Pups

In various places across this website you’ve seen us mentioning that our dogs are bred specifically as Assistance and Therapy dogs. But what exactly does that mean? An Assistance dog is, in essence, a dog who’s capable of helping a person in their everyday life. Whether this be to keep them calm in difficult situations, help them to overcome anxiety, alert to sugar highs and lows or to warn of impending seizures, and so much more.

As breeders, we don’t train these amazing dogs, or provide trained dogs to people with needs. What we do is we breed Labradors with the correct temperament base that are capable of then being trained as Assistance and therapy dogs. It’s not just any Labrador who can accomplish these tasks. Even the Guide dogs, with all their years of experience and multigenerational breeding program, only have a 50% success rate for the pups they breed. It takes a special and very specific type of temperament, and it takes a specific and very special sort of breeding program, to produce these pups.
Expertise & Insight

Our Experience

We at Valinka have a strong background in working with people who have special needs, so when people start listing acronyms like ASD, PTSD, OCD, and ADHD, we not only know what those conditions are, but we are well aware of what struggles are faced by the sufferer and their families alike, and what sort of assistance they will need from a dog

We also know what our dogs are capable of, and can steer people toward the litter, and the individual puppy, who will fulfill those needs. But, you must remember, we are providing a puppy with the potential to make a great Assistance dog, and not a fully trained animal.

Supply & Demand

Demand is up, supply is down…

Many people who enquire about a puppy are in the process of finding out if an Assistance dog is for them, or trying to work out the process of how to go from buying a puppy to having a fully trained and functioning Assistance dog.

Waitlists for trained Assistance dogs are ridiculously long, horrendously restrictive, disappointingly expensive (in the vicinity of $40-$50k), and many people simply fall outside their criteria.

This is not because other people don’t have a genuine need, but it’s because there are so few dogs available that organisations concentrate on those who they can help the most successfully. For those people who fall through the abys of a the “cracks” in the criteria, they are left with the options of either not getting a dog, or becoming an owner-trainer. And this is usually the point at which people are led to our website.

Training Journey


Becoming an owner-trainer is a long and difficult process, and you can’t do it alone. Once you have the perfect puppy, you then need to engage the perfect trainer, and also surround yourselves with several good friends or family members who can help with the training from time to time. Your trainer needs to be one with whom you “gel”, and someone who gets you and your needs. Don’t be afraid to change trainers if you don’t feel the current one is the right fit for you. Changing is not a reflection of the quality of their work, or their abilities as an Assistance dog trainer, it’s just a sign that your two personalities don’t mesh together. And you do need someone who does get you. This is someone who will be in your life for at least the next two years, and probably longer.

Owner-training a puppy isn’t for everyone. It is a lot of work, and it means regular training and taking the puppy out into the community multiple times. If you are easily triggered, or if keeping to a schedule is more than you are able to commit to, then you may need to consider alternatives. Maybe an in-house arrangement with the trainer, where the puppy is raised by a carer family and you just have regular contact and training with the puppy.

Owner-training an Assistance puppy can be amazingly rewarding but, if you’re not properly prepared, it can end in failure and you will simply be adding a pet puppy to your household.

Assistance Dog Defined

What is an Assistance Dog?

Essentially, an Assistance dog is a dog who has been trained to help a person with special needs to go about their daily lives, or to function normally within society. This special-needs person is usually someone with a physical or cognitive disability, emotional disfunction, or a medical condition that effects their lives significantly. The benefits of Assistance dogs are slowly being recognised throughout society, although gaining funding for the private purchase and training of an Assistance dog is still tremendously difficult through NDIS. Hopefully that will change in the near future.

The Differences

An Assistance dog differs from a Therapy dog or Emotional Support animal in one major way, the PAT qualification. The Public Access Test. Once a dog has passed their PAT, they have the same legal rights as a Guide dog or Seeing eye Dog. They are permitted into shopping centres, onto buses, trains, or taxis, into restaurants, movie theatres, hospitals or medical centres, even on a plane (and not in the cargo hold, but in the cabin with their owner, either under their seat or in a seat of their own). The dog has proven themselves safe within society, and the government can be 99% certain they will not bite, run off, startle, or show fear in public, nor walk their human out into oncoming traffic. This qualification sets them apart from all other dogs, and it’s a difficult test to pass.


The training of an Assistance dog takes approximately 18 months to 2 years. For most families that purchase an Assistance puppy from us, they will do a lot of the training of their puppy themselves, under the guidance of a qualified trainer, and with the help of their friends. The over all cost of an Assistance dog (under an owner trainer), with the purchase of the puppy and the cost of private training over a 2 year period, will (on average) be one quarter to one half of the price of a fully trained Assistance dog through an organisation. Families also have the advantage that the dog is already working, and offering some level of support, during the training period. They are also developing a strong and intense bond with their special person from a very young age.
Companion & Support

What is a Therapy Dog?

There are generally two types of therapy dogs. One is a dog who can emotional support and comfort to a lot of people. This can be in a private home setting, or in more public settings, such as in hospitals, nursing homes, or workplaces. The dog isn’t bonded to one person in particular, they don’t have a special person, but are trained to be calm and relaxed in all settings, and are generally quite friendly and social with all people. The other type of therapy dog is one who does have a special person, and may have even been trained part or most of the way towards being an Assistance dog, but they haven’t become qualified. Sometimes a family doesn’t need a dog to be out in public, but just to provide assistance in the home, so the full Assistance Dog qualifications aren’t necessary. Once the dog is working as they need them to, families will often stop the training.

Therapy dogs DON’T have public access rights, and haven’t passed their PAT. They can go into public places, businesses and private residences, hospitals, etc. but only with the permission of the owner/administrator.

Natural Comforters

What is an Emotional Support animal?

An emotional support animal is usually an animal who hasn’t received any specialised training, but one who is naturally intuitive, or supportive, to either their special person or just to people in general. They can be any type of animal from a rat to a horse, and all sizes in between. It’s the emotional support they offer to people that counts, not their ability to perform certain tasks. Often people will want to take their emotional support animal with them out into the community, onto buses or trains, but this is not allowed by law. An emotional support animal is untrained, and while they can go places with the permission of those who own or run that particular place, taking an emotional support animal out with you into the community is not a given right.

Assistance Dog Tasks

What can an Assistance dog do?

How long is a piece of string? I don’t think the full potential of the canine companion has even been contemplated yet, let alone reached. Everyone knows about dogs being used as hunting companions to their human keepers; this has been happening for more than forty thousand years. But these days they also excel as police detection dogs, guard dogs, scent detection dogs (for anything from drugs, to money, or even to food), and guide dogs for the blind. They have even experimented with dogs to detect cancer, covid19, and other diseases. As far as Assistance dogs go, below are some of the more common uses that we have encountered.

Diabetic Alert Dog

This is a little self-explanatory in one respect. The dog is trained to detect when their special person is having a sugar high or sugar low, and they will either let the person, or a parent/carer, know about the changes. But that is something so simple to teach a dog. Many ordinary dogs with a diabetic owners can teach themselves that little trick. An Assistance dog is trained to do so much more. They will retrieve the insulin kit if their special person is immobile. They will nudge, push or try to wake up their person so they can take their insulin. They can retrieve the phone and give it to their person, so they can call for help. If all that fails, they can leave the house and go to a pre-arranged location for help (neighbour/friend), or press the emergency button if one is fitted in the house (which contacts emergency services or a set phone number). They can also be trained in ways to try and resuscitate their special person if they become unconscious or incapacitated.

Seizure Alert Dog

Similar to a diabetic alert, in that the dog is trained to warn their special person, or a parent/carer, when an epileptic seizure is imminent. The person can then prepare themselves for the seizure: lay down or get into a comfortable and safe position, take additional medication if needed, call or alert anyone if it’s warranted. Again, the alerting part of the education process is the easy bit. Dogs can smell so much more than we can. They already know the scent of a seizure, all we have to do is teach them what to do when they smell that smell. A Seizure Alert dog is capable of so much more than to simply alert to an imminent seizure. They can retrieve medication if needed. Bring the phone to their special person. Go and tell someone else that a seizure is imminent or has happened. They stay with their person during the seizure, removing objects from harm’s way if needed. Once the seizure is passed, they can perform deep pressure therapy to bring their special person back to full awareness, which includes laying on their chest, licking of the hands and neck, or nudging to wake them up. If their person remains unresponsive, as with the Diabetic alert dogs, the Seizure alert dog can go and find help, press an emergency button in the house if one is fitted, and so on.

PTSD Assistance

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is often suffered by our returned servicemen/women, or victims of trauma, domestic violence or crime. A sufferer often experiences “triggers” in every day life, little things which bring them straight back to the traumatic event, or they may find they become anxious, confused, and upset very easily. Here an Assistance dog helps people to regulate these reactions. Dogs can smell when someone’s emotions are becoming unbalanced, or when they are starting to spiral, often long before the sufferer is even aware of it. The dog offers comfort, and is taught in a variety of diversion activities to break the downward emotional spiral. For the sufferer, the benefits of an Assistance dog are quite literally life changing.

ASD Assistance dog

Autism Spectrum Disorders are now much better understood than they were in the past, and more children are being helped through the minefield of their disorder and to a productive and fulfilling adulthood. As with most emotionally based supports, the Assistance dog is taught how to divert undesirable emotional spirals, whether they be up or down, before they get to the “meltdown” stage. For younger children, the dog is sometimes taught to be a tether, to prevent runaways, or trained tracking skills, so they can find someone when they have run off. They can sleep with the child, regulate their nighttime patterns, and for some parents it can be the first time they’ve slept alone since their child was born. The dog is required to remain calm in the face of all adversity, which takes a very special kind of personality.

Anxiety, Depression, and other Mental Health Disorders

The most common factor for a lot of mental health disorders is an inability for a person to regulate their own emotions, or emotional responses to situations. An Assistance dog offers them an outside reference, both as someone they can rely on for emotional comfort, and as a litmus stick to test if a situation really is a true danger or just a perceived one. The dog is taught a set of activities, or diversion tactics, to diffuse a situation before it becomes unhealthy for the sufferer. To the outside observer, it may just appear as though this calm and gentle dog is following their person around and not doing much. But it is the very presence of that calm and relaxed animal that allows their person to venture outside the home and enter the wider world. It takes an amazing amount of effort for a dog to appear that casual.

Guide dogs

While we don’t provide dogs to families that are purely for use as seeing eye dogs (there are multiple organisations within Australia already providing that service), some of the Assistance dogs we’ve bred have been trained in roles that include Guide dog type functions. It could be someone with memory loss, or who has a problem with their sense of direction, a sufferer of a condition that allows them to become readily disoriented, or confused, or unable to navigate traffic conditions, or see the danger in deep pits or water courses. Everyone wants to be independent, and having a dog who can provide a Guide Dog level of Assistance allows their special person to go out into the world. Being a guide dog becomes part of the dog’s training process, but the assistance they provide to their person isn’t restricted purely to that role.

Physical Assistance dogs

When some people think of an Assistance dog, they may envision a person with a physical disability, possibly confined to a wheelchair, who has a dog to fetch and carry for them. And these dogs certainly do exist. But for most Assistance dogs, the “fetch and carry” part of their job is just a small piece of a much larger picture. An Assistance dog can certainly be taught to bring items to people. Such as a phone, the TV remote control, they can bring drinks or medications from pre-arranged locations, they can retrieve items which have been dropped or have fallen out of reach, or can press emergency buttons in case of incidents. These may seem like small and simple tasks, but for a person with limited mobility or a life-impacting disability, these acts of independence make their life so much more fulfilled. It can mean the difference between being under constant supervision and being able to be left alone for hours at a time. To be alone! Sometimes for the first time in years, or even the first time in their entire life. And that can be an amazingly empowering thing.
Labrador Advantages

What makes the Labrador so good for Assistance work?

Most people know that Labradors are one of the smartest, and most easily trained, dogs in the world. But so is the Kelpie, Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd or the Beagle. So, what makes the Labrador so special for Assistance work? It takes a lot more than smarts to be a good Assistance dog. You need to be calm, stable, loyal, gentle and loving as well, plus forceful and a little stubborn. That’s a tough combination to meet.

Smart and Stable

Labradors are always placed in the top five dogs when it comes to intelligence. So are the Kelpie and the Collie. The difference is in their temperament. If a Collie or a Kelpie are scared or hurt by something, they’re unlikely to ever forget it, nor to forgive. They will forever hate that particular sound, situation, person or event. A Labrador is much more accepting and will forgive a single scare. Loud noises don’t often worry them, anyway, so thunder, cars backfiring, gunshots, falling objects, screaming or banging are part of a normal day. A strange and loud noise will make them startle, for sure, but they will quickly move forward to investigate exactly what it was. They will make up their own minds whether it really was a dangerous thing, or whether it was something to be placed in the “it’s okay” section of their mind. Labradors catalogue sounds and, once they’ve heard something a few times, will often sleep through the loudest of noises and yet will come running at the crinkle of a biscuit packet!


Loyalty is an important part of a Labrador’s psyche. While the Beagle may be great with loud noises, and is easily trained to scent and detection, they are intensely disloyal and would follow anyone home who had a pocket full of treats. The Beagle works well when it comes to detecting drugs or contraband at an airport or prison, under the strict direction of a handler. In an open setting, where they had to direct a person through dangers, they are too easily distracted and are inconsistent. The Labrador will stick to their person like glue and can have difficulty letting go long enough to play at the park with other dogs for any length of time.


One of the hardest things for any puppy to do is to be gentle, but it’s such an important trait. The German Shepherd is incredibly smart, very loyal, and bonds strongly with their family, which are all perfect attributes for an Assistance dog, but they can sometimes take that loyalty too far. Their protective instincts can lead them to acts of aggression in inappropriate places, loud and angry sounding barking, and so on. The German Shepherd also suffers from bad press, and is often viewed an as “aggressive dog”. This can cause people to become nervous or wary of them, which isn’t good for an Assistance dog being taken into public and crowded places.

Love People

The Labrador seems to have all the right attributes, in all the right places, for a good, solid, Assistance dog. Here, at Valinka, we have taken those basic characteristics of the Labrador and intensified them. We breed specifically for a temperament that is both calm and outgoing at the same time. Puppies that will play, and playfight, and run about like any other puppy. But then, as soon as people pet them, or they’re picked up, they immediately calm and relax. That is not a “trick” that is taught, either. This is an instinctive response to human touch… to turn to jelly. Their calm nature also extends to noise response, and most of our pups learn early on to ignore all those things that “mean nothing”, but are still quite loud. We try to expose our pups to many different noises, loud sounds, obnoxious children’s toys, bangs, yelling children (naturally occurring in the household, actually), low flying aircraft, noisy birds, and so on. But while this exposure gives them a leg up in their training process, the instinct to ignore loud noises in inbred to Labradors in general.

We have also taken the natural bond that Labradors have with people and made it stronger. They will often prefer the company of people over other dogs. An Assistance dog needs the company of people, and their favourite place is with their special person. It’s a biological drive.

Love of Food

All the smarts, stability, loyalty, and gentle nature in the world won’t do any good if the dog can’t be trained. Food is the greatest motivator for any animal (the human ones included) and Labradors are incredibly food motivated. They will do almost anything for food, and this makes them the perfect candidate for an Assistance dog. While food motivation is an essential part of the training process, Labradors can take it too far. Obesity is a big issue, so a strict adherence to diet and appropriate exercise is still essential for any working Assistance dog. Labradors won’t regulate themselves.

Our Recommendations

While we have worked with a number of people and organisations over the years, who are capable of training Assistance dogs, there is now one group which has begun to stand out from the others. WAAT Dogs, the West Australian Assistance and Therapy Dogs. They are a not-for-profit group that specialises in educating owner-trainers and Assistance dogs alike. They have a pool of qualified trainers who help families through the process of turning their bundle of puppy kisses into a functioning Assistance Dog. It is not a free service, you still have to pay for the training, but they’re not a corporation out to make a massive profit. They are just a group of dedicated and enthusiastic people intent on seeing as many people as possible access the help they need in raising Assistance dogs. I have also included the contact details for other, individual, Assistance Trainers that we’ve had contact with in recent years.

(08) 9228-3647

Get in touch

Contact us


A. 82 Peters Road, Muchea, 6501
(Prideland Kennels and Cattery)
M. PO Box 237, Muchea, 6501

Phone or email

P. (08) 9571 0677
M. +61 414 898 236