School's Therapy Dogs
Meet our School’s Therapy Dogs
Many schools now benefit from therapy dogs to support pupils in a number of areas including reading and helping to reduce anxiety. Our Holy Trinity School Therapy dog is a Cockerpoo who has lived with Mrs Ambrose, our Head of School and her family since she was a young puppy. Her dad is a Toy Poodle and her mum is a show Cocker Spaniel.
The advantages of this mixed breed are:
- No shedding: reducing the possibility of exacerbating pet allergies. Mrs Ambrose has allergies to animals and has had no reaction to Mabel at all.
- Easy training: although she is still young Mabel has proved herself to be a fast learner and is well behaved.
- Good with children: this is a suitable breed for children and is known to be playful and affectionate around them. Growing up in a home with young children Mabel is used to the erratic, noisy behaviour of children.
Mabel is already familiar with the school environment as she has spent time on site. Children will not be able to touch Mabel without permission from an adult.
Misty is a miniature Labradoodle puppy. The breed has been chosen due to the sociable and friendly nature of the breed. Misty is undergoing training and will gradually be introduced to school and our pupils. She will be fully insured to work in school and with our pupils. Pupils will have an assembly to introduce Misty and ask any questions they may have and the children may see her walking around the school to get her accustomed to being in the school environment.
What are the benefits of having a school dog?
Numerous research studies have shown the benefits of therapy dogs in schools. Therapy dogs have been working in schools for the past 5 years across the UK; they have been commonplace in schools in the USA and Australia for many years. Research evidence indicates that benefits include:
- Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem-solving and game playing.
- Social – a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, encourages responsibility, wellbeing and focused interaction with others.
- Emotional – a school dog improves self-esteem, acceptance from others and lifts mood, often provoking laughter and fun. Dogs can also teach compassion and respect for other living things as well as relieving anxiety.
- Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses.
- Environmental – a dog in a school increases the sense of a family environment, with all of the above benefits continuing long after the school day is over. Children who have worked with a dog report that one of the most valued qualities is the unconditional love and attention it gives to everyone with whom it interacts.
Reading to dogs has been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, through both the calming effect the dog’s presence has on children as well as the fact that a dog will listen to children read without being judgemental or critical. This comforting environment helps to nurture children’s enthusiasm for reading and provides them with the confidence to read aloud.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What if my child is allergic to dogs?
It is understandable that some of you may be concerned about possible allergic reactions to a school dog. Mabel is subjected to the most thorough cleanliness and grooming regime. She will only be allowed in situations with pupils who voluntarily wish to work with her.
Is the dog properly cared for?
Mabel is extremely well looked after. She lives with Mrs Ambrose and her family and will only come initially to school one day a week. She will always be accompanied by an adult and stay on her lead walking around school. Whilst she is in school she will have access to a dog crate in Mrs Ambrose’s office where she can rest and have quiet time. She will visit the vet regularly for all her treatments as well as regular check-ups. If she is unwell for any reason she will stay at home.
What if my child is scared of dogs?
Some children may have had upsetting experiences and have a fear of dogs (or another animal). Experience and research have shown that, with proper guidance and handling, children can learn to overcome their fear of animals and grow in respect and appreciation for them. We hope that children at Holy Trinity will be similarly helped. Parents have the opportunity to ask that their children do not have contact with Mabel but equally the child may like to meet Mabel with the parents present. This can be arranged with Mrs Ambrose.
Will the school still have a ‘no dogs’ policy?
Yes. Our school continues with a ‘no dogs’ policy. Attending school dogs/therapy dogs do not fall within the remit of this policy as they are subject to rules as part of our risk assessment. Mabel will be on a lead at all times when moving around the school property and will always be accompanied by an adult. We will make sure that she doesn’t leave any mess on school property. She will also be fully insured to carry out her role thus allowing her to be on the school site.