About Smart Pups

A not-for-profit organisation based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

We provide assistance dogs to children with special needs. Trained in task-specific skills, Smart Pups improve children’s independence and quality of life. This unique form of early intervention therapy has a profound effect on the day-to-day lives of children and families… making a positive change that keeps growing. For life.

We are passionate about helping children and their families to achieve greater quality of life through the loving companionship of a Smart Pup – and a furry best friend for life.

Our Story

Since 2011, Smart Pups has grown from one dedicated trainer to Australia’s leading provider of assistance dogs.

Smart Pups was founded by Patricia McAlister, a respected Dog Trainer and Behaviourist with 30 years of experience breeding champion Golden Retrievers. When asked to train a dog for a child in a wheelchair, Patricia became aware of the need for Assistance Dogs trainers in Australia, and wanted to help.

Patricia completed a five-month internship with 4 Paws for Ability in the USA, a pioneer of Autism Assistance Dogs for children. Here, she learnt specialised techniques for training Service Dogs for Multipurpose Assistance, Seizure Assistance and Autism Assistance.

Patricia returned to Australia in 2011 and started Smart Pups Assistance Dogs with a small training facility in Noosa, Queensland. Since then, we’ve successfully placed more than 100 dogs all across Australia. At any one time, we have about 50 dogs in training and 70+ families on our waiting list. Our team has grown to include more than 15 trainers, administrative staff and volunteers – plus dozens of amazing foster families for our puppies-in-training.

We’re proud to have been one of the first organisations to train assistance dogs for people under 18 years old. In 2015, we were instrumental in changing legislation to allow children to have their very own assistance dog with an alternative handler.

As Smart Pups receives no government funding, we pursue partnerships, sponsorships and donations to cover costs. Each family also agrees to engage in fundraising activities as volunteers for Smart Pups and donate the funds raised to help cover the training costs (approx. $25,000) for a Smart Pup for their child.

Patricia McAlister
“Seeing for myself the amazing success of these dogs helping children with disabilities, I know that families in Australia can experience the same benefits.”
Smart Pups team
We aim to enrich each child’s life with highly trained canine companions that improve their physical health and safety, independence, confidence, self-esteem, social interaction, life experience, happiness and wellbeing.

Guide, Hearing and Assistance DogsApproved training institution

Smart Pups is an approved training institution under the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009.

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits CommisionAustralian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission

Click here to visit the ACNC website.

Smart Pups trainers
Want to help? Find out how to sponsor, volunteer or foster...