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There is an increasing body of research to support the benefit of a dog in school. In schools across the country, Reading Dogs are being used to help children develop fluency in reading and Therapy Dogs provide comfort and reassurance to children with anxiety and self confidence issues.
Increasingly in schools, it is becoming recognised that children's emotional wellbeing is at the root of positive behaviour and success with socialising as well as in the classroom.
A dog can support children who are anxious about school and could be the reason that they want to come in every morning. Children with trouble managing their behaviour could learn to care for the dog and the dog could be helpful in de-escalating anger. Reading dogs can help boost children's confidence and fluency. Caring for an animal can help children to learn about responsibility and can help children to learn how to treat animals safely and with compassion.
Dogs are great fun to have around and can bring a caring, family atmosphere to a school.
Preparations for having a School Dog
School leaders have taken advice from schools Dogs’ Trust and Pets as Therapy, who have provided guidance about the necessary risk assessments and insurance that we have put in place, as well as practical guidance.
Toilet area is designated away from the children’s play areas.
In order to ensure that the dog would be beneficial to the children’s learning and wellbeing and not be a distraction, we will plan when and where the children will interact with the dog. Parents will give written agreement for their child to interact with the dog. If any child is allergic to dog hair we make sure that they don’t come into contact with the dog (or have restricted contact) if parents request it.
Likewise, if a child has a phobia of dogs we will keep the dog away from them, or we can offer opportunities for the child to be slowly introduced to the dog, to reduce their fear. Parents are invited to contact the Headteacher if either of these cases apply, so that we can make the necessary arrangements.
Our school dog is Prince, who is also Miss Grunnill's family pet. Prince is a black Labrador and was born on 30th October 2020. His breed is known to be easy to train, friendly and very intelligent. Prince had lots of early socialisation at the home of his breeder on a Therapy Farm in Devon and is undergoing additional training to ensure his suitability to work in a school. He has regular check-ups at the vet and has updated vaccinations, flea and worming treatment.
While Prince is still a puppy, interactions with children will be short and will be very carefully monitored to avoid children being hurt by play scratches and nips, and to avoid undue stress to Prince. Prince has and will attend puppy training classes and will receive additional training support to help with his job as the school dog. To date, Prince has been spending most of his time in Miss Grunnill's office, getting used to the hustle and bustle of the staff coming and going and watching the children play through the gate. He has a designated area behind the school building to play and dig. He has been on a short walk with some year 6 pupils and has been on playground duty in his crate to get used to children running around and making lots of noise! He usually has a lunchtime or after school walk around the village. He sometimes walks around the school grounds on a lead after has has toileted so the children may see him around the school. In this way, he gets used to the environment and the children get used to seeing him around.
Guidelines to interaction with the School Dog
Until Prince is old enough and has adequate training, chilldren will not be allowed to touch or spend any time with him up close untethered. Parents/ carers have been informed that there is a school dog and when the time is right, can request that their children don’t have contact with him. There will always be a responsible adult in charge of Prince during interactions with children. Children and adults are required to adhere to the following;
· Always approach Prince calmly and slowly
· Never run up to him
· Offer the back of your hand for Prince to sniff when meeting him
· All interactions must remain calm with the authorised adult in control at all times
· Children must wash their hands after they have been stroking Prince.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will the school dog do on a day to day basis?
Prince is based in Miss Grunnill's office. In time and with parents' permissions, small groups or individual children can come to the office for Prince to listen to readers or help with particular projects, such as learning about caring for animals. Prince will always be kept on a lead to start with, working towards free roam of the Head’s office when children are present.
He sometimes walks around the school grounds to get used to the environment.
How do I know that my child will be safe around the dog?
A risk assessment will be in place and will be available below. The school has insurance to cover having a dog on the school site. Children will only have contact with Prince when supervised by an adult. When moving around the school, Prince will always be on the lead. In time, we will look to train the children on how to interact safely with Prince.
Will my child pick up infections from the dog?
Prince will be fully vaccinated, treated regularly for worms and fleas and will be kept away from the school if he is ill. Children will be required to wash their hands after handling him. There is a dedicated dog toilet area away from areas that children access and no child will be asked to pick up dog mess.
What if my child is allergic to dogs or afraid of them?
Parents can request that their child has no contact, or restricted access to Prince in these situations. Please speak to Miss Grunnill to discuss any concerns.