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The Paw Pals Animal Assisted Education program has been created by MacKillop Education Services for students who are currently disengaged or at risk of disengaging from education.

Our program focuses on building student engagement and confidence through animal assisted activities and individualised learning sessions working alongside our trained therapy dogs and program facilitators. Paw Pals is a planned and structured student intervention with specific academic and educational goals, and is available to students in Melbourne and Geelong.

Now in Geelong

Thanks to major partner, PETstock Assist, and the great response to our 2021 Paws4Kids campaign, we’re launching Paw Pals in Geelong from Term 3. Individual and group sessions will be scheduled 4 days a week, and interested schools or service providers can use the referral forms below.

Our staff work within a trauma-informed framework using the ReLATE model and have an understanding of the impact and implications of developmental trauma on a student’s learning and education. Paw Pals provides a positive learning environment which supports students to quickly develop trust and increased self-esteem as an independent learner.

Paw Pals aims to:

  • Increase social confidence and emotional intelligence
  • Improve self-regulation and behavioural management skills
  • Increase student engagement in academic based learning tasks
  • Deliver positive learning experiences and opportunities for student success

School group program

Paw Pals also run school groups for primary aged students on the following topics:

  • Responsible decision-making
  • Relationship skills
  • Social awareness
  • Self-management
  • Self awareness

How to support the program

The Paw Pals program is funded by community support. Our annual fundraising campaign, Paws4Kids, allows the community to donate to the program and have their donation matched by our sponsors. Find out more about Paws4Kids here.

Paw Pals sessions are the best thing ever! When I first saw Justice I was very scared, but now I really love dogs.

– Grade 6 student

In Paw Pals you learn about the dogs, and how their emotions are and how they act every day, and how they’re so nice and kind. For example, Indie – she’s always excited, and Ivee is very calm.

– Grade 6 student

How to access the program


Students or groups can be referred by their school, family, case manager or Child Protection Worker. To obtain a referral form, please complete our expression of interest form below.