Paws have been muddied. Coats have been matted. Our furry offsiders have (once again) proven their mettle.
So in their honour, it’s time to announce the finalists for The Australian Dog of the Year 2024!
Looking over all of the noble doggos that were nominated, we’re reminded once again of just how incredible our doggos are! Reading through the entries, we’ve seen how incredible Paw-stralians from across our nation have made a difference to others and the communities that they live in, and have helped people through difficult times.
We’ve found ourselves smiling, laughing, and even reaching for the tissues as we’ve read through the beautiful stories of our Aussie fur family and the people they’ve helped. Once again it’s been highlighted that for many of us, our puppers are our best friends, closest companions, and furry superheroes. We wish we could include all of them as finalists!
With our tails wagging, we present the Australian Dog of The Year Finalists!
Can I get a WOOF-WOOF?!😎 🐶 🐕
I adopted Champ from a working sheep property when he was four. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, but that hasn’t stopped him from competing in dog sports and earning titles in herding, scent work and tricks. Champ, now aged 12, has appeared on television highlighting his therapy dog work in assisted living facilities, as a Reading Dog in schools and to help children suffering from dog phobia.
I have been diagnosed with cancer four times, and he has always been at my side to provide mental and emotional support. He has a wonderful, calm temperament & helps me socialise other dogs as part of my dog training business.
Champ epitomises the true spirit of Australia by being courageous, loving & amazing in every way!
Charity: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
Solo is a Guide Dogs Australia trained Guide dog. I am 57 years old & have been legally blind since Feb 2009. I’m told I have about 2% vision. The lovely people from Guide Dogs persuaded me that a Guide dog would suit my needs and so the story of Solo Guiding Tony began.
Having a guide dog is amazing. It really opens up the world for you. He helps me find doorways, escalators, buttons at traffic lights and elevators, pedestrian crossings, empty seats to sit down. He’s even able to find my wife if we get separated at the shops. The independence he brings back to life is fantastic. Solo has become that bigger part of the family we can’t imagine life without him. Work hard, play hard seems to be Solo’s motto in life and I’ve never known a dog to be so so happy all the time.
Nessie, the extraordinary Conservation Detection Dog from SA, is a true hero in the fight to save the endangered Hooded Plovers. Over two seasons, Nessie has scoured the metropolitan & Fleurieu Peninsula’s coastal landscapes. She’s successfully located 180 fox dens that posed a grave threat to the survival of these tiny, ground-nesting birds.
Her versatility shines as she now also tackles the conservation of Pygmy Blue Tongue lizards, detecting them in intricate spider burrows. Nessie is also a proficient Search and Rescue dog – adept at trailing the scent of missing humans & dogs.
Nessie’s impact extends to the upliftment of volunteer morale. She has become the heartbeat of the team devoted to safeguarding the Hooded Plovers.
Charity: D.A.R.E. Rescue
Heidi is a rescue dog from RSPCA. She’s now 13 years young, & that one-in-a-lifetime Heart Dog. My father had extreme dementia. Heidi got herself on his bed & lay beside him for three days. His waving hands would touch her. My dad was soothed, as she patted her. I would find her in Dad’s special chair, or on his bed, and I knew she was talking with him. I wished I could have.
Heidi currently holds 39 Titles. She’s a Tracking Champion, Track and Search Grand Champion, Agility Champion & Rally Obedience Champion. She has Advanced Tricks, Advanced Dancing With Dogs & Endurance Dog titles.
Heidi is the classic Aussie Battler. She has cancer & nearly died from chemo. Despite this, she’s ballsy, stoic, headstrong & so incredibly loving.
Charity: The Missed Foundation
Bella & I started in a tracking club when she was 12 weeks old. It was obvious from the beginning that she had talent. She easily passed every tracking test to become the first WA cross-breed dog to gain the Track and Search Grand Championship Title. She also trained in additional disciplines, including water search, cadaver & area search. With Bella’s skills, we became a certified operational team in scent-specific tracking & human remains detection. We worked as a team to bring home missing loved ones. We’ve attended many callouts being activated by WAPOL and were able to provide direction of travel for WAPOL, as well as closure for some families.
16 years on from the day Bella was brought into my world, I can now say, rest up Bella… your job is done… welcome to retirement.
Charity: Delta Therapy Dogs Australia
My beautiful Benny, is a Delta Therapy Dog. He has visited a high school where he works his magic with children with ADHD and autism. Benny just seems to know who needs him. I have seen very upset & anxious children relax & smile when Benny sits with them and accepted pats.
We have also visited Youth In Detention. These young people often haven’t had the best start. There were times when his calming influence was needed. Court dates, for example, are a very anxious day for these kids. Often, they were missing home or having a particularly hard time.
We have absolutely loved working with all these special children. There is never any judgement, only love. It’s rewarding seeing Benny work his magic.
I’m the Founder of PAWS Pet Therapy. We train volunteers & their dogs to provide pet therapy. Wendy & Angus were one of 3 original teams, and are the last original team. They have spent hundreds of hours at the Southern Highlands Cancer Centre, providing comfort while patients have chemo. Angus has the knack to know who needs him most.
Children with special needs, HSC students & aged care residents have all received pet therapy visits from Angus. He can work his magic with people of any age. A highlight of Angus’s career was the work he did at an Adolescent Mental Health Unit, where he encouraged young people to open up. Gorgeous boy Angus, now 13, has been diagnosed with cancer which has devastated all who know him.
Charity: Animal Aid
I’m Kali & I’ve worked as an accredited Therapy Dog & Story Dog for almost 11 years. I’ve supported people at the bushfires in Gippsland. Many cried into my fur, & it was reported in newspapers. I went to Parliament as a representative for Amendments to the Domestic Animal Bill. I work with adults with complex disabilities & as a Story Dog to support children’s literacy. I also attend Latrobe Regional Hospital including in the Emergency Department, Cancer Care & the Ambulance Bay. I’ve represented at events including the Dog Lovers Show & Melbourne University.
I am happy when I make other people happy. And I’ve also taught my new sister Leiha how to be a therapy dog.
Charity: WAAT Dogs
Evie is one of very few highly specialised POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) Assistance Dogs in WA. She is owner-trained as a medical alert & response dog, through WAAT Dogs. Evie detects changes in blood pressure & heart rate, and will alert a medical episode prior to me noticing symptoms. This allows me to find a safe space to sit/lay down, where she can then provide deep pressure therapy or lay under my legs to elevate them. Evie’s medical alerts prevent me from passing out & possibly injuring myself.
Evie’s other tasks include retrieving medical items, closing doors & light switches. She helps me with daily chores, which prevents the worsening of symptoms. Evie is my best friend, a lifesaver, and provides me security & independence.
Charity: Second Chance Animal Rescue Inc.
Madonna has been changing lives since she was a puppy & is now my Psychiatric Assistant Dog in training. She’s always sensed sadness in people & approach them to bring smiles.
Last year, while we were training in Bunnings, a staff member collapsed. As I assisted with CPR, Madonna consoled other staff in shock & crying.
Recently, we lost my stepdad. One night, Mum broke down crying. Madonna ran to her room & jumped on her bed to console her. Mum was shocked at how she was able to detect her sadness & provide such gentleness.
We’ve been actively fostering since Madonna was a puppy. She’s loved showing the fosters how to be confident & well socialised.
Charity: Animal Therapies Ltd
Lilly White Dog, once rescued, now rescuing. Lilly was rescued after the Christchurch earthquakes in NZ. Following her return to Australia, Lisa faced significant health challenges. Lilly’s support & presence through these, gave rise to something even more meaningful.
Lisa and Lilly went from being a novice assistance dog team to the creating Assistance Animals International. Today, Lisa & Lilly support approximately 100 assistance animal teams across Australia & Internationally. AAI has accredited Australia’s first Assistance Cat Team.
Lilly and Lisa consult with the government, industry & individuals about all things assistance animal-related. They represent individuals facing discrimination.
Charity: PTSD Dogs Australia
Sirius is my assistance dog & has been helping with my chronic disabilities from 4 months of age. He arrived following a horrific situation. Sadly, I had witnessed someone taking their life. Sirius assists me with seizure & anxiety alerts, applying DPT & helping me attend medical support. Sirius is now learning & helping with everyday tasks like retrieval, dressing, opening doors & interrupting nightmares.
My husband ended up with Complex PTSD from not being able to support me, leading to his own suicidal concerns. Sirius has helped me support my husband.
Sirius is helping me get back to work, supporting me to train reactive & aggressive dogs. Sirius may only be 8 months, but he’s been life-changing.
A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I was incredibly depressed. I got Charlie and we’ve been inseparable ever since. He is my entire world. He pulled me from a dark hole.
This year we moved out of my parents home. A few months ago a man broke into my apartment and sexually assaulted me. Charlie knew something was wrong. He got the intruder to leave before things got the chance to get any worse. He saved my life. Police who looked into my case told me how special he is and that he saved my life. I told them he saves my life every single day I wake up to his beautiful face and his beautiful eyes.
“11 years in Kindergarten and Aged Care,
I show humans what love a dog can share.
For the very young to those growing old,
Each week my boundless love unfolds.
My human guardians may accompany me,
But I am the Papillon they want to see.”
Kovu was a rescue and help me through 7 months of chemo and radiation after being diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2023. We had a rough year, but Kovu was there every step of the way.
We then were inspired by Pet Therapy Dogs who visited us every Friday for my treatment. After this horrible time, it was time to give back to our community. Kovu graduated as a therapy dog through Pet Therapy Dogs. We have undergone visits to nursing homes to make other lives more fulfilling and enriched. Kovu is a true gentle giant that deserves the best life I can give her. She kept me fighting!! And for that, I can never thank her enough.
The day starts with Crackerjack bringing me my jeans, t-shirt, socks & shoes. I sometimes drop my asthma puffer on the floor. Crackerjack picks it up.
Once a virtual shut-in, reliant on others to take me everywhere, I now have Crackerjack to make independent community access possible. He helps provide a physical barrier to stop others getting too close. If I drop something in the shops, he picks it up. Having him helps me feel safe & confident in the world.
Crackerjack might be from farm working dog lines, but the important work he does now helps me to live as independently as I can with my disabilities. He is my right-hand man. Crackerjack loves his tennis ball and me throwing it for him is all he asks as reward for his faithful service.
Charity: The Butterfly Foundation
A month after I got Scooter I was diagnosed with anorexia & depression, and my anxiety become more severe. Scooter has been the shining light when I wanted to end it all. Scooter kept me safe & protected me so that I couldn’t hurt myself. Whenever I am sad, no matter where I am, Scooter finds her way to me. Without her, I truly believe I wouldn’t be alive.
Scooter’s officially written into my safety plan, and she never fails to calm me down. When I’m in a full mental episode the only thing that brings me out of it is Scooter, she comes into my room and allows me to cuddle her. She doesn’t move until she is sure that I’m ok. On dark days, my parents allow me to take Scooter for a walk because they know I could never leave her. Scooter truly has saved me more than she will ever know.
Charity: Guide Dogs Australia
Sally was matched with me by Guide Dogs. She was too sensitive to ‘guide’, but this made her well suited as a medical alert dog. She detects when I was about to collapse with a brain aneurysm.
Sally must’ve thought I was the worst puppy raiser, not knowing the words she knew. One day though, I collapsed in front of her. Her jaw dropped. After that, she’s always watched me closely. It took 3 months with our trainer to fine-tune our signals. Since then, there have been many times Sally has let me know I need to sit down prior to a collapse or stepped in to get me to a seat to stop a collapse. With my balance deteriorating, it was suggested she wear a harness to help me. She’s so proud with it on & I rely on her to keep me walking straight. Sally’s the reason I am still independent today.
Want to get in on some of this a-paw-rable action? We’re inviting you to vote for your favourite finalists!
The People’s Choice will receive:
Plus the bragging rights as the People’s Choice in the Puppy Tales Australian Dog of the Year!
Pssst… For taking the time to vote, you could score one of ten Puppy Tales Photography photography experience for yourself — or to give to a dog-loving buddy — valued at $450
Voting in the People's Choice Prize has now closed. Look out for the winners announcement on 26th January!
Australian Dog of the Year Terms and Conditions
If your phone is dominated by photos of dogs, we’re barking up the same tree because Puppy Tales believes dogs aren’t just important to our lives, they are family and a source of tremendous joy. Puppy Tales is for anyone who thinks puppies smell delicious or can’t help but smile when they meet a dog. We know the difference dogs make in life, and celebrate this.
Our mission is to inspire people to make the most of life with dogs through:
Puppy Tales also offers practical info and tips; from veterinary advice to products that enrich life with your fur pal we cover a wide range of dog-centric topics.
Puppy Tales content is created by regular contributors who are experts in their field such as veterinarians and our founder, an Australian pet photographer of the Year, Kerry Martin.
Kerry Martin – award-winning photographer, author & pet parent!
Kerry Martin is a passionate dog lover. Crazy some may even say 😉! She’s dog mum to two much-adored (and much-spoilt!) dogs, Keiko & Summer. ^^^^ that’s them!
“They give my days fun, exercise and meaning. I don’t know what my life would look like without them, and for this Aussie fur-mum, they are the Australian doggos of the decade! They, along with the many, many amazing dogs I’ve photographed as a dog photographer are the inspiration behind these awards. I want to share stories of their amazing feats, I want to highlight the very im-paw-tant jobs they are doing and I want to showcase just how incredible dogs are”.
For Kerry, as the human behind Puppy Tales and a community aiming to help and inspire pet parents live their most pawsome life together, dogs, photography & travel are what matters most to her.
She has been a professional photographer for over 12 years. She’s a Master of Photography and has won multiple National & International Awards. The most notable of these awards include Australian and Victorian Pet and Animal Photographer of the Year. These awards were with photos taken for pawrents just like you. Each pet offers something incredibly unique and special, and each session is treated like an award-winning one.
Kerry also loves to write & share about dogs, travel and adventures together. In addition to content for Puppy Tales, she’s written articles for popular dog publications including Dog Life Magazine, Pets and Dogs NSW. She’s also been interviewed and/or contributed expertise to articles in publications including Travel with Dogs by Lonely Planet, Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday Tasmanian, Capture and Digital Photography Magazine. And she’s appeared on television talking about travelling with dogs (Channel Nine TODAY Show) and dog photography (Channel 10 Pooches at Play and Channel 10 Animal Extra). Her first book Dog Tales of Australia is available now.