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School Dog

Meet Teddy!

Teddy is a four and a half year old Schnorkie; this means he is a cross between a Miniature Schnauzer and a Yorkshire Terrier.  He belongs to Mr and Mrs Preston and their son Charlie.  The Preston’s rehomed Teddy when he was just 16 weeks old.  He hadn’t had the greatest start to his life, and had already lived in four homes in his short life before Mrs Preston spotted that he was looking for his forever home and persuaded Mr Preston to go and take a look at him (knowing that she wouldn’t come away without him!)

Since arriving at the Preston’s home he has grown into a very loving, clever dog.  The family undertook puppy training with The Dog’s Trust, and a behaviourist to help with some unwanted behaviours that he displayed early on.  He trains very easily through the use of treats as rewards and he now knows and responds to many commands.  He is a fantastic family pet, who loves to go on long walks, enjoys watching Charlie play football at the weekend, but best of all loves to snuggle up on the sofa with Mrs Preston! 

Why have a school dog?

Mrs Preston started to bring Teddy in to school for Friday afternoon Diamond time, a few years ago, so some of the children who have been in Early Years over the past few years will already know Teddy.  They have enjoyed taking him for walks on the school field and stroking him.  Last year we even took him on a bus ride!  She noticed that a number of schools in the local area were getting school dogs, and discussed with Mr Down if he thought it would be something that we could consider for Bushmead.  She visited one of the schools and joined some groups on social media to gather ideas and advice so that she could inform him how it could work in our school. Mrs Ploughman, one of our Governors thought it was a great idea too, and so the seed was planted that Teddy would become our school dog.  Now, the term school dog is described by The Dogs Trust as a dog that spends most, if not the whole day at school.  They generally become part of school life, wandering in and out of classrooms and enjoyed by all children in the school.  Ideally, this is what we love for Teddy to be, but he has one very bad habit that we have yet to undo and that is to pick up and sometimes eat anything that is lying on the floor!  At home Mrs Preston has to be very careful not to leave anything lying around; slippers, socks and most often in Charlie’s room bits of Lego and Nerf gun bullets!  So at the moment, the plan is to bring Teddy into the Early Years Unit a few times a week, to get him used to being in the classroom, take him for some walks and then to train and use him as a Therapy Dog, through The Dog Mentor programme.  He will also learn to listen to children read and greet them on their way into school in the mornings and say goodbye at the end of the day.  We are mindful that some of our pupils may be anxious around dogs or may even have allergies, and so we are very careful to ensure we gather this information and ensure we manage any contact with Teddy accordingly. Teddy’s breed means that he is hypoallergenic and does not shed hair, so therefore the risk of causing an allergic reaction should be minimal. Children are reminded to wash their hands after petting Teddy.  There is a copy of our risk assessment and an example of the permission forms any child joining our school must complete.

We do hope that if you join our school or simply come for a visit that you get to meet our lovely Teddy and enjoy his company as much as we do!

What is a Therapy Dog?

Children’s relationship to animals can play an important role in their lives.  Children frequently draw animals, talk about animals and even dream about animals.  Studies have found that children with companion animals have higher self-esteem, greater empathy, more engagement with peers and other prosocial behaviour.  Research on child-animal bonds has shown that it promotes healthy connections in the brain and helps to strengthen intellectual, physical, emotional and creative processes.  The Dog Mentor programme has built upon the benefits of the human-animal bond by providing children positive experiences with dogs that can help them educationally, developmentally, emotionally and socially.   (The Dog Mentor)

Therapy dogs have been working in schools across the UK for the past 5 years. However, they have been commonplace in schools in the USA and Australia for many years now. Evidence indicates that areas of potential benefits include:

 

• Cognitive development – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem-solving, game-playing and can improve reading skills.

• Emotional development – 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 development – interaction with a pet reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses.

• Environmental benefits – a dog in a school contributes towards the creation of home style environment, with all of the above benefits continuing long after the school day is over.

• Social benefits – a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, encourages responsibility, wellbeing, developing social skills and focused interaction with others.

Pupil Selection

As Teddy goes through his training with the programme, staff will identify and select children to work with him.  To begin with this will just be children in the Early Years Unit, but it is hoped that children further up the school will benefit from sessions in the future.

There is a three part process to selection.

Step 1- Referral Form

The referral form provides personal background information and reasons for referral.  Outcomes hoped as a result of this intervention.  What other intervention methods have already been received.  Details of any diagnosis (ADHD etc).  Details of any outside agencies involved with the family.  Whom has referred the child and finally details of the child’s basic academic levels and school attendance.

Step 2 – Parent/Guardian Letter of Consent

A letter of consent will be sent home to the Parent/Guardian detailing the support their child will receive via the Dog Mentor programme along with the time period their child will be part of the programme.

Step 3 – Learning Environment Observation Assessment

The assessment is an integral part of the learning and development process.  It involves observing the children to understand their level of rapport and behaviour in class.  Using this information we are then able to shape the learning experiences for each child reflecting those observations.

(The Dog Mentor)

School Dog Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Q       Who is the legal owner of the dog and who pays for its costs?

A       The legal owner of the dog will be Mrs Preston.  She will bear the costs associated    with owning the dog; the school budget will support insurance and staff training costs where appropriate.

 

Q       Will the dog be a distraction?

A       The dog will be kept in the Early Years Unit. The unit is separate from the rest of the classrooms / playground areas to ensure it only comes into contact with children who are happy to have contact and have parental permission for this, under strict supervision. The dog will also access the main area of the school field.

 

Q       Has a risk assessment been undertaken?

A       Yes, we have carefully considered having a dog in school and sought advice from many sources, including other schools that successfully have a school dog and a reputable dog behaviourist. The risk assessment can be read upon request.

 

Q       Who is responsible for training?

A        Mrs Preston will be the legal owner of the dog and as a result, will be responsible for its training. Appropriate professional training will be obtained by Mrs Preston and Mrs Howitt and the dog will work towards being trained as a school dog through The Dog Mentor company. 

 

Q       How will the dog be toileted to ensure hygiene for all?

A        In the interest of health and hygiene our school dog will be toileted when taken out for short walks in the grounds. Only staff members will clear this away appropriately leaving no trace on the ground, cleaning the area with disinfectant if needed. Our policy of no other dogs in the playground is still applicable as we are unable to put effective control measures in place that guarantee temperament and safety when children come into unsupervised contact with unknown dogs.

 

 

Q      How will this be managed where children have allergies?

  A      We already manage a number of allergies at school and this will be no different for children and adults that are allergic to dogs. Individual needs will always be met and we are happy to work with parents to put additional control measures in place for individual allergies. The breed of dog is known for minimal moulting, he is given a high quality food and regularly groomed to reduce any possibility of allergens.  Children are asked to wash their hands after contact with the dog.

 

Q      My child is frightened of dogs; how will you manage this?

A      Access to the dog is carefully managed and supervised and children do not need to have close contact with it if they choose not to or parents have chosen to opt out. We hope to work closely with parents of children (or adults themselves)  who are fearful of dogs to alleviate their fear and to teach them how to manage this.