Tilly the School Dog
During the summer of 2017, Tilly a Cockerpoo, joined Mrs Brodie’s family and has been busy learning lots of things so that she is ready for life in our school.
There are a number of school dogs already in post around the country. I am sure you will agree that this is an exciting opportunity for the school, but may have some questions.
Outlined below is some more information about having a school dog like Tilly.
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. 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 Tilly’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.
Some concerns you might have:
My child is allergic to dogs
It is understandable that some of you may be concerned about possible allergic reactions to a school dog. However, Tilly will be subjected to the most thorough cleanliness and grooming regime. She will also only be allowed in situations with pupils who voluntarily wish to work with her. Your permission will of course be sought in advance of her having access to, and working with, your child in school.
Will Tilly be properly cared for?
Tilly will be extremely well looked after. She will live with Mrs Brodie and her family and will come to school most days, but will stay safely in the offices until satisfactory training has been completed. She will then, in time, work in classes but will always be accompanied by a trained adult. She will undergo thorough and rigorous training (beginning with puppy classes) so will be extremely well-behaved. Tilly will be assessed by a Pets as Therapy Assessor before working with any children. Whilst Tilly is in school she will have access to a dog crate in the offices where she can ‘chill out’ during the day! This is where she will spend most of her time initially. Tilly will visit the vet regularly for all her injections as well as regular check-ups.
My child is scared of dogs
Some children may have had upsetting experiences and thus have a fear of dogs (or another animal). Tilly will only be in contact with children whose parents have given their permission. However, her training will help her to be calm and gentle around children. 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.
The school has a ‘no dogs’ policy
Our school does have a ‘no dogs’ policy, however Tilly would be training to be a Pets as Therapy dog and would be undertaking a strict assessment regime. She will be on a leash at all times when moving around the school property and will always be accompanied by a trained adult, namely Mrs Brodie. Tilly will also be fully insured to carry out her role thus allowing her to be on the school site.
Dogs are used in some schools to listen to readers as they calm individuals and decrease any frustrations or anxieties. Above all these activities, dogs are known to bring affection and comfort to both children and adults and frequently used in hospitals and hospices both nationally and internationally as part of therapeutic activities.
Not everyone appreciates animals or even a dog, as they do at times smell and of course have to deposit the food and drink they have consumed! Children will not have to deal with this activity and would not be forced at any time to be with Tilly. There are children who have allergies to pets and this has been the reason why we chose Tilly, a Cockapoo, who are well known to not moult.