Become a Pet Educator

The Responsible Pet Ownership (RPO) program has been teaching children how to be safe around pets for over 20 years.

The program operates within Animal Welfare Victoria.

Background

The program launched at West Footscray Primary in May 2000. Since then the team has visited over 59,000 preschools and schools teaching more than 3,335,000 students.

Over a 15-year period (1999/2000 – 2013/2014), Victoria has seen a statistically significant decline in dog attacks in children aged 0 to 4 requiring emergency hospital treatment, according to research undertaken by Monash University Accident Research Centre.

About the program

Pet Educators and their own suitability tested dog visit schools and preschools to teach children how to safely approach a dog, and what to do if an unknown or angry dog approaches them. The visit includes the use of story, song and role play to reinforce messages.

What should you do when faced with an angry dog? Stay still, hands down by your side and look at the ground.

The program regularly receives positive feedback from parents, grateful their child has been able to retain and use the skills they learned in the program to respond safely to an encounter with a dog.

A day in the life of a Pet Educator

This video shows a day in the life of Pet Educator, Simon and his dog Rory.

Title: A Pet Educator shares what it's like to work with his best friend

Simon:

Okay - health food of the nation for our furry guy ... Rory-Meister!

My name is Simon Meates, I’m a pet educator. I take my dogs into kindergartens and primary schools and I teach kids how to be responsible pet owners and how to be safe around dogs.

I first joined the Responsible Pet Ownership program in June, 2015 with Rory. I was drawn to the program because I love kids and I love dogs and here I am getting paid to work with both.

Hi guys, my name is Simon - hello everybody!

Children:

Hi Simon!

Simon:

Excellent. Now, I’ve come down today to talk to you about how to be safe with dogs and how to meet a dog you’ve never ever met before. I teach kids that trust is very important with animals.

We teach them to recognise the body language of a dog, an angry dog, a scared dog, a happy dog and how best to be around them.

If a dog is tied up and the owner is not there everybody cross your arms and say “no touch!”

Children:

No touch!

Simon:

Can we say that again really quietly? No touch.

Children:

No touch.

Simon:

Excellent.

A lot of incidents happen when the dog is actually scared. We teach kids just because a dog is cute doesn’t mean it’s going to be a friendly toy that they can pick up and cuddle, that dogs have feelings too, they have moods.

Child:

May I pat your dog please?

Simon:

How are you holding your hand? Oh your hand looks very good. Put your hand down by your side. Yes, you can pat my dog.

Walk like a banana, that’s right, let him sniff the back of your hand. Excellent - oh he’s bowing because he thinks you’re a princess.

It’s really cool being able to work with your best friend because no matter what sort of a day you’re having they’re always uplifting.

So if you have free time during the week, and you have a friendly dog maybe you might be interested in this job and it’s totally rewarding with the feedback you get from kids and knowing that you’re making it a better world.

Become a Pet Educator

The RPO Program requires more Pet Educators throughout Victoria to ensure that the program can reach kindergartens and schools across the state. Our educators are trained and remunerated for their work in delivering the program's key safety messages.

Each Pet Educator is accompanied by their suitability-tested dog. These dogs are very comfortable in the school environment and enjoy their time with the children.

They are on leash and under the direct control of the Pet Educator at all times. The dogs work under strict guidelines in relation to how often and when they can work.

The dogs are owned by, and reside with, the Pet Educators. The health and wellbeing of the dogs and the safety of participating children are our key priorities.

Contact

If you would like to enquire about becoming a pet educator contact the Responsible Pet Ownership team on 1800 000 776 or vic.pet@ecodev.vic.gov.au.

Page last updated: 15 Jul 2022