Therapy Dog, Murphy comes to school each day under the supervision of his owner Principal, Education Support staff member, Nicole Higgins. The role of therapy dogs  at CNPS is to react and respond to our students and their environment, under the guidance and direction of their owners and other CNPS Staff working as their handlers. Murphy works at CNPS to support students with social and emotional learning needs. For example, an individual might be encouraged to gently pat or talk to a dog to teach sensitive touch and help them be calm.

A recent report highlighted students working with therapy dogs experienced increased motivation for learning, resulting in improved outcomes. Research into the effects of therapy dogs in schools is showing a range of benefits including:

The following rules are enforced when Jacob and Murphy are working at school:

  • If Jacob and Murphy are present in a learning space or the playground with their owners or another CNPS staff member they are officially working. They are available for pats and cuddles, but we try to limit this to two children at a time and only under our supervision.
  • If Jacob or Murphy is working with a CNPS staff member who is supporting an individual student or small group of students, then other students must adhere to the ‘no touch, no talking’ with the dogs both in the playground and when they enter the classroom.
  • Rest areas have been set up for Jacob and Murphy in the School Office and Library so they can have some time out – the concentration they need when they are working means they get quite fatigued and need a rest!
  • The dogs need a number of ‘second handlers’ (older students and staff) who understand the basic commands and can take the dogs from their primary handler if required.


Murphy and Nicole have completed Certified Training for Handlers and Dogs through Lead the Way Institute

In order for the dogs to work at CNPS, their owners must adhere to:

  • Therapy Dog Grooming Guidelines
  • Therapy Dog Veterinary Health Screening including Immunisation Requirements and
  • OH&S and Risk Assessment Requirements.

Dog Therapy Opt Out

We understand that there may be some families who do not want Murphy to work directly with their child. Please email your opt out notification to

Carlton North Primary School acknowledges the support of Lead the Way Institute, School Focused Youth Services and the Victorian Government.