Our School Dog
Therapy dogs have been working in schools for the past 5 years across the UK. However, they have been commonplace in schools in the USA and Australia for many years. 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.
Reading to dogs has been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, through both the calming effect they have 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.
Just before Christmas, Mrs McArdle welcomed Ludo into her home to live with her and her family. In January, Ludo started coming into school four days a week. After a couple of months of settling into the offices and hearing the noises around school. Ludo received training and passed his assessments in The Dog Mentor programme. This programme was founded in November 2014 by Jenny Duckworth. Based in Gravesham and Medway the Dog Mentor programme uses Animal Assisted Activities to help teach and engage children with educational needs working on areas such as self-esteem, behaviour, peer relationships and better engagement skills. It builds upon the benefits of the human/animal bond by providing children with positive experiences with dogs that can help them educationally, developmentally, emotionally and socially
We are aware that some parents, teachers and children may be unsure around dogs and we have organised a series of sessions and assemblies to explain how to help Ludo feel like part of the school family so everyone feels safe and happy together. Our dog will also be available to work with children (and adults) who have had bad experiences with dogs or other animals. With parental permission, over a period of time children who react fearfully to dogs will be supported in approaching, handling and gaining confidence in managing their fear. While the dog’s main place of residence will be an office area, which is secure and separate from the classrooms, children will able to interact with the dog under strict supervision at certain times of the week as long as parental permission has been given. The dog will not be given access to other visitors without supervision or mutual consent. Please understand that we will do everything we can to reassure children who are fearful and that under no circumstances will they be forced to meet with the dog. Whilst moving around the school, Ludo will be kept on a short lead and will always be with an adult. We have chosen a Cockapoo as the most appropriate breed of dog for the school. The breed has been carefully selected because of its ideal temperament and because it is used widely in the field of therapy and support (e.g. hearing dogs). Cockapoos are also used successfully in other schools as they are, by nature gentle and friendly creatures. We have introduced a post box outside the office and are encouraging children to ask any questions or write him a letter if they wish. We have also created a display board that lets children and staff know the new words and tricks we are teaching him. It is important that Ludo still has a lot of time to sleep whilst he is growing so we have created a timetable for his day.