'Benji'- Our Therapy Dog
My name is Benji and I’m the school therapy dog. I’m 3 years old and I’m a cockapoo. My mum is a cocker spaniel and my dad is a toy poodle.
I have passed a special assessment to show that I am very friendly, calm at the right times and accept treats very gently. I’m quite fussy about food but little chunks of cheese are usually a big hit.
I live with Miss Powers and the rest of my human family.
I’m usually in school a couple of days a week and love to meet and greet at the gate in the morning and welcome everyone with my extra waggy tail.
I like to run around on the field and fetch my ball - my favourites are balls and toys that squeak.
I love to be stroked and fussed, and if I'm really excited, I like to dance around on my back legs.
One of my jobs at school is to help children if they are feeling sad or anxious, and as well as being fluffy and very therapeutic to stroke, my big floppy ears are really good at listening if children, (or adults), want to tell me their worries.
Mental Health and Wellbeing benefits
Some mental health challenges and psychiatric disorders are known to respond well to therapy dogs. Children diagnosed with a range of issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, Autism, ADHD, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), benefit from their interaction with therapy dogs and other companion animals.
Sometimes, emotional challenges are the result of physical health problems, and therapy dogs can help with those too. Research suggests that children who are recovering from difficult surgery or a bad accident who participate in animal-assisted therapy may feel less pain. Studies have shown that such interactions can increase the mood-boosting hormone oxytocin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.
Evidence shows that just being near a dog when stressed can reduce anxiety. In a survey, 92% of pupils said they felt more relaxed during teaching and learning time when there was a dog in the classroom. When children are more relaxed and less stressed, they’re going to learn more.
Researchers report that pupils can identify with animals, and with empathy for the dog, can better understand how classmates may feel. They continue to state that pupils’ behaviour improved towards teachers, and pupils also showed more confidence and responsibility.
The following information has been taken from a range of sources to provide further detail about the benefits of having a dog in school:
Reading programmes with dogs are doing wonders for some pupils. Children who might be embarrassed to read aloud to the class or even adults are likely to be less scared to read to a dog. It might be less stressful for a child to read aloud to a dog than to a teacher or a peer. After all, a dog won’t judge or correct you. Dogs are used to encourage struggling readers to practise reading aloud. With the presence of a calm and well-trained dog, pupils find social support and peer interaction. Dogs are incredibly calm and happy to have pupils read to them or join a group of children in the library whilst they are having a book reading session. Dogs give unconditional acceptance, as they are non-judgmental, which is especially crucial to struggling, emerging readers. The dogs also provide confidence to children, as they do not make fun of them when they read, but above all they make amazing listeners, providing the children with a sense of comfort and love. Research has proved that pupils who read to dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition, a higher desire to read and write, and an increase in intrapersonal and interpersonal skills among the pupils they mix with.
Dogs in school offer an opportunity for improving social development. They are especially useful for teaching pupils social skills and responsibility. Schools are using dogs to help older pupils build self-esteem; learn about positive and negative reinforcement, responsibility, and boundaries. Pupils can use dogs to help communicate, teach kindness, and empower pupils. With a dog in school, pupils have the opportunity to learn how to care for the dog. This includes walking and grooming. Research reports that involving pupils in the daily care of a classroom dog is a positive experience, promoting their own daily care. The pupils also learn about responsibility, caring, and sharing when helping each other take care of a dog at school.
Therapy Dogs can work with pupils on a one-one basis and will especially help those pupils who have been bullied, abused, going through upsetting/difficult times or even scared/phobic of dogs. The dog will bring much joy and help to all the pupils they meet and they are happy to provide plenty of hugs to the pupils they are spending time with. Pupils who struggle with social interaction can find a reassuring friend in a dog.
What do the children think?
To be added