Frequently asked questions

General Enquiries

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs for Special Needs Children Incorporated is a not-for-profit charity.

Every dollar that is raised through donations and fundraising efforts counts and goes directly to helping a special needs child and their family with the cost of raising and training their allocated Smart Pups Assistance Dog.


It takes 24 months

...to raise and train a Smart Pups Assistance Dog

Piggy bank

It costs $40,000

...to cover initial purchase, food, vet care and ongoing training for each dog

A Smart Pups Assistance Dog

...becomes a permanent addition to the recipient child’s family

Paw prints

Smart Pups provides

...ongoing advice and support as required for family, carers and educators

How is a Smart Pups Assistance Dog different from other dogs?

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs are individually trained to provide assistance to a special needs child. Most people are familiar with guide dogs for the blind, helping people with vision impairment. Smart Pups have special ‘task specific’ training so they can assist a young person, from the age of five and up, with handling day-to-day routines and events.

Is a Smart Pups Assistance Dog like the family pet?

No, a Smart Pups Assistance Dog is more then just a pet. A Smart Pup is a purpose-trained service dog that will require constancy in care and handling and carries papers that allow the handler to take the dog into places where a normal pet would not be allowed.

How can I tell if a dog is really a Smart Pups Assistance Dog and not just a pet?

When they are out in public all Smart Pups Assistance Dogs wear special collars and harnesses with the Smart Pups logo and photo identification of both the dog and their child. All Smart Pups are Public Access Certified and are required to have identification papers on them at all times.

How long can we keep our Smart Pups Assistance Dog?

Some service dogs are retired out of service when they turn nine years old, and the recipient handler is given a new dog. However, a Smart Pups Assistance Dog is permanently placed with their recipient child and will continue to provide assistance and be a friend and constant companion.

How long is the customary waiting period for a Smart Pups Assistance Dog?

It takes 12 – 14 months to raise, train a Smart Pups Assistance Dog for a special needs child. This incorporates everything from the point of application approval, confirmation of a suitable match, general and ‘task specific’ training to home placement, orientation and training.

How long is the current waiting period for a Smart Pups Assistance Dog?

Current waiting time is about 24 months. This is due to the increasing demand for our Smart Pups and limited resources, which are presently reliant on donations and the fundraising efforts of volunteers. Smart Pups is currently working on grant applications and seeking corporate sponsorship to help reduce waiting times.

What must I do when an individual with a Smart Pups assistance dog comes to my business?

As all Smart Pups are certified for public access they are permitted to accompany the individual into all areas of a facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with special needs may not be segregated from other customers because of their disability.

If a business has a ‘no pets’ policy can I still enter with my Smart Pups Assistance Dog?

Yes. A Smart Pups Assistance Dog is not a pet and assistance dogs are an exception to the general rule.

Am I responsible for my Smart Pups Assistance Dog when we enter a business premises?

Yes. You are a three-team unit. The care and supervision of both the child and the assistance dog is solely the responsibility of the handler. It is not up to the business to manage or care for your Assistance Dog.

How do Smart Pups train an Assistance Dog?

Dedicated volunteers foster and raise our puppies in their own homes for the first 12 to 18 months of life. When ready, the pup commences a general obedience and socialisation program with our qualified trainers, which takes the pup through a set of assessable modules exclusively designed and tested by Smart Pups.

How can I get a Smart Pups Assistance Dog for my child?

You can complete and submit the online application form for assessment.

How much does a Smart Pups Assistance Dog cost?

It costs approx $40,000 to raise, train and place a Smart Pups Assistance Dog. Smart Pups relies entirely on donations and fundraising efforts.  We do not charge our clients for a Smart Pup, but we do ask for assistance with fundraising and require a $20,000 donation toward their Smart Pup.

What’s the difference between a Guide Dog, Therapy Dog and an Assistance or Service Dog?

Guide Dogs assist people who are blind or visually impaired. Therapy Dogs are usually the personal pets of their owner and visit individuals in places such as hospitals or nursing homes. An Assistance Dog is placed as a permanent companion of a special needs person (or person with a disability) and is trained to assist and enable them achieve greater independence.

What types of Service Dogs do Smart Pups train?

Autism Dogs – Autism Service Dogs are generally matched with a child with a primary purpose of improving a child’s safety. Smart Pups works with parents and educators to incorporate the dog into the child’s overall educational plan and believe that the greatest success comes from the fullest use of the dog’s skill and training. Autism Service Dogs can be used to help improve a child’s communication skills, form social bonds, ease difficult transitions, and provide emotional and physical support.

Seizure Response Dogs — These dogs are trained to assist children who experience seizures and to aid their recovery. Some Seizure Response Dogs even alert their owners to oncoming seizures, however, it is unknown why only some dogs are able to foresee a seizure. People with Seizure Response Dogs often benefit from an unexplained decrease in seizure activity.

Multipurpose Assistance Dogs – Assistance Dogs are task-specific trained to help children with varied disabilities, for example to assist with mobility or wheelchairs.

Where do Smart Pups get the dogs?

Smart Pups only works with Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Labradoodles. We breed our own dogs and have also built long-standing partnerships with several trusted breeders. This ensures our dogs are not only healthy, but sound in temperament as well.

How long does a recipient care for the dog?

A Smart Pups Assistance Dog is placed permanently with the recipient child and the family takes full responsibility for its health and wellbeing.

How long does a Smart Pups Assistance Dog work?

A Smart Pups dog is placed permanently with the recipient family. High quality food, excellent veterinary care, sound exercise, proper grooming and plenty of love and attention all help to increase a dog’s working life. Smart Pups keep in touch with the recipient family and follows up three months after initial placement. We also recertify the dog for public access every 12 months.

Is it okay to pet an Assistance Dog?

It’s always best to ask before petting an Assistance Dog and please be willing to respect the person’s decision if they say no. Assistance Dogs working in public should not be petted if it could distract their focus on ensuring the safety of their special needs child.

Where do Smart Pups, place your Assistance Dogs?

Although we are based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, we place our Assistance Dogs throughout Australia.

Sponsorships Enquiries

What is my sponsorship money used for?

Your sponsorship money goes into Puppy Care: Half of your sponsorship pays for a puppy’s food, vet care and preventative vaccinations and heartworm/tick/flea treatments.

Your sponsorship money goes into Training: The other half of your sponsorship pays for basic training, training coats, treats, collars and leads, socialisation field trips, and to ‘task specific’ training including dog/recipient training, public access certification and handover to their new owner.

Will I be my puppy’s only sponsor?

Each Smart Pup has an alliance of sponsors to ensure all costs are covered. Some sponsors choose to be sole sponsors of a Smart Pup and meet the entire cost of raising and training the puppy with a single sponsorship donation or by paying regular instalments over a set period of time.

Will I know how my sponsor puppy is doing?

Smart Pups Community Champions provide ongoing monthly donations to Smart Pups and receive a special login to access their puppy’s updates. These updates occur every two months and you can keep track of a lot of the dogs on our Facebook page. If you are a sole sponsor, you’ll receive regular updates and be invited to fundraising events throughout the year.

Can I visit my sponsored puppy?

Each Smart Pup is fostered by a loving family and we do not organise personal visits. However, we will invite you to Smart Pups fundraising events, which will give you the opportunity to meet some of the Smart Pups in training.

Can I give a Smart Pups sponsorship as a gift?

Yes! You can sign up to one of our Sponsorship packages and give the gift of a Smart Pups puppy by providing us with the gift recipients’ details. We will send them a Sponsorship pack that includes toys, merchandise and a Community Champion medallion offering discounts at local businesses that support Smart Pups.

If you would like more information please click here to email.

Foster Home Carers and Puppy Raiser Enquiries

How much time will fostering take up?

This will depend on whether you elect to become a full time or part time foster, but whenever you have a pup in your care you will be required to provide constant supervision. You can choose to leave the majority of the socialisation to our trainers or can elect to become more involved by attending training sessions and puppy classes.

What support do I get?

Each foster will have their own trainer assigned to them. Trainers will visit you at least once, usually twice weekly and are able to assist with all aspects of training and give guidance on any behavioural issues. Telephone support is offered during office hours and emergency contact is available if needed.

What does it cost me?

Smart Pups will provide all the essentials for your pup, this includes all equipment, food, training material, parasite control and veterinary care. Your trainer will deliver food to you on a weekly basis. Our pups are fed a mixture of raw fresh food and dry kibble.

We encourage fosters to assist us by purchasing additional toys for their pups. Fosters may occasionally be asked to transport their pups to veterinary visits or local training venues. All fosters will be required to provide a passport photo to be used on their handler identification.

How is a trainee assistance dog different from a pet?

We all love our pets, but our trainee pups need to earn our love. This doesn’t have to be hard for them, just something as simple as sitting nicely before getting a pat, or waiting quietly for the door to open. Praising your pup when he does the right thing will help him want to please you and enjoy his work. Using the same commands given by our trainers will allow your pup to learn quickly.

We will provide you with a foster handbook that outlines commands as well a few essential rules, such as never feeding human food and not allowing your pup up on furniture.

Can I take my pup anywhere?

Not to start with, the world is a bewildering place for a new pup so we need to introduce new experiences gradually. We will also spend time showing you the correct way to walk your pup in public. Once your trainer is happy you are managing well you can apply for a carer identity card. You will then be given a trainee jacket for you pup and will be encouraged to socialise him in places appropriate to his training level.

Can I foster if I work or am studying?

Yes you can. If you work full time maybe consider becoming a part time foster. This is a rewarding way for you to be involved and have dogs in your life. If you work in a home based business or have permission to take a dog into your work/study environment you may also be able to be a full time foster. Please contact us to discuss your circumstances. We are also happy to hear from workplaces that feel they would benefit from having an older trainee dog in their office.

Part time workers and students are encouraged to apply. We are a flexible organisation and can often accommodate our training days around your work commitments.

Does the pup have to be inside my house?

Yes. Assistance dogs live inside to enable them to assist their special needs child. Your trainee pup needs to spend the majority of its time inside the house with you. This will enable the pup to become accustomed to the routine of family life and the common sounds of vacuum cleaners, driers and dish washers.

Smart Pups will provide a sleeping crate (cage) for your pup. This helps your pup feel settled and also protects your house during times when your pup is left unattended.

Can I foster if I have other pets?

Yes, as long as your existing pets are social and accepting of a new arrival and you have no more than three dogs in total, including the Smart Pup.

Can my children foster a dog?

No. The primary handler, which is the person who is responsible for the care of the dog and is the point of contact for our trainers must be over eighteen. Children are not permitted to walk the pup in public.

However since our pups are being trained to work with children we encourage safe and supervised interaction. It is beneficial for our pups to learn to accept children grooming them and playing games. Older children are encouraged to learn the commands needed to teach the pup a number of tricks.

What happens if I go away or my circumstances change?

We don’t expect you to put your life on hold for twelve months while you have a Smart Pup. Our part time fosters are able to provide holiday care with sufficient notice. Being a locally based charity we are only ever a phone call away should an emergency arise that requires us to care for your pup.

Under some circumstances you may be able to take your pup with you on a short holiday. This can be discussed with your trainer on a case by case basis.

Can I foster a dog if I live in a unit?

Yes. We have a number of dogs successfully fostered in units. Please contact us to discuss your individual circumstances. Suitability will depend upon your easy access to toileting and exercise areas, body corporate regulations and our ability to match a dog to you with the correct temperament for unit living.

What sort of dogs do you train?

We currently train three breeds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Labradoodles (Poodle x Labrador). The type of dogs we have on our program at any one time will depend on the needs of the clients we are training for.

Can I name my dog?

Your pup will come to you already named. We use an alphabetical naming system to help us keep track of our litter ages. Corporate sponsorship that includes naming rights is available.

What can I expect when my Smart Pup arrives?

Smart Pups don’t start out smart! Our pups are like any other youngsters. They are likely not to be house trained, may not have been away from other litter mates before and will have had no or very limited training. Expect, crying, chewing, soiling, muddy footprints and hair! They are guaranteed to be super cute though!

Please be honest in your own self-assessment, look at your own home and consider where you will need to take your pup, if it is accompanying you to work. While the majority of our full time foster vacancies are for young pups we do occasionally need homes for older dogs. If you feel this would suit you better please let us know.

Will I get too attached to my pup?

Yes! Of course you will. Despite the answer to the last question, you will become very attached to that crying, chewing hairy puppy. Please consider this before fostering and discuss your motivations for fostering as a family. It is our experience that children that understand the arrangement from the beginning cope well and are proud of their pups achievements at graduation time.

Graduation is always a tough time for all involved but also something to be super proud of. Your dedication and hard work will have turned that little puppy into an amazing assistance dog that will change the life of a family forever. And if you still miss your pup, when you are ready we can find you a new bundle to begin the journey with again!

Will I be able to find out where my pup goes after graduation?

We will provide you with the basic details such as the age and gender of the recipient child and what kind of work your pup will be performing.

Beyond that there is no guarantee and we must respect the wishes of the recipient families. Some families like to post regular updates on our Facebook pages others do not. Our foster newsletter will always contain stories of graduating dogs to provide plenty of inspiration.

What happens if my pup doesn’t make it?

Not all of our pups in training will have what it takes to become assistance dogs. It is disappointing for all concerned, but is largely due to the temperament of the dog and not the fostering or training.

Depending upon the stage of training withdrawn pups will either be offered for sale as pets or channelled towards a working career that better suits their skills and energy levels.

Do people that raise and care for a puppy for the first year of its life ever want to keep it?

Foster Carers do become attached to the pup after a year of joy and fun together. However, our Foster Carers have identified the following significant factors they have learnt through their fostering experience:

  • The pride of seeing your pup learn new skills as it undertakes specialised Smart Pups training modules
  • The joy you feel when your Smart Pup is placed with its recipient child
  • The sense of fulfilment in giving something so meaningful to someone with greater needs
  • The satisfaction of watching your pup become a certified Smart Pups Assistance Dog
  • The absolute pleasure in knowing the difference your pup is now making to the lives of others
  • This gift of service that surpasses any personal need to keep the dog

After a Smart Pup is placed, the recipient family often provides updates of their Smart Pup via Facebook and Foster Carers can continue to watch the positive changes their Smart Pup is making to the lives of others.

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