Therapy Dog @ Armstrong
We Have A Therapy Dog In Our School???? YES we DO!!
Kelsey the NewFoundland Dog
We all know dogs have a natural capacity to make us feel better, cared for and unconditionally loved. But when working for people in need, they are capable of so much more. Kelsey’s presence adds to a positive, social and low-stress learning environment. These benefits are reflected in the literature examining the use of animals, especially dogs, with children and youth. Studies have shown, spending time with Therapy Dogs has proven to have social, emotional and physical benefits to children and youth. One of the key findings is that when Therapy Dogs are introduced in small group settings (e.g. one dog, one handler, and several students), the dogs serve as “social lubricants” or social catalysts that facilitate children’s interactions with each other.
What are the goals of a therapy dog program in a school?
While therapy dogs have been used widely in recent years for reading enhancement, a therapy dog program can contribute much more. Here is a summary of the areas where the use of therapy dogs in a school setting can contribute significantly and help to achieve important goals in student development:
GOAL: Increase empathy/compassion.
- Dogs can assist counselors/social workers working with students who have anger management issues, bullying behavior and other anti-social conduct
GOAL: Decrease retaliatory violence and improve self-esteem.
- Dogs can assist counselors/social workers with students who are victims of bullying and related behaviors.
GOAL: Help the student stay connected with social networks.
- Dogs can assist counselors with students who are socially disconnected from the mainstream student body.
GOAL: Reduce anxiety levels and help children to decompress after traumatic circumstances.
- Dogs can help in the reduction of stress and anxiety among children in social settings that are stressful.
GOAL: Improve reading skills, comprehension and increase confidence and literary interest.
- Dogs can contribute to the improvement of reading and comprehension skills of students having difficulties.
GOAL: Lessen the emotional trauma of a critical incident/event for students, teachers and staff.
- Integrating trained therapy dogs into the emergency preparedness and response plans of a school system when a critical incident occurs can have major benefits.
The above programs have been increasingly used in recent years with documented results. Sadly, many school administrators or educators are not aware of the scope and value of what Therapy Dogs can do and thus have only used dog programs sporadically or piecemeal at schools and learning centers. Thankfully Principal McGary of Neil Armstrong has welcomed a Therapy Dog program at Neil Armstrong Elementary and the students and staff have enthusactialy welcomed it!