While therapy dogs seem like relatively recent additions to education settings, their effectiveness has been noted for the last few centuries. For context, Florence Nightingale noticed dogs’ abilities to ease anxiety and improve recovery in adults and children which inspired her to further explore the idea of Animal Assisted Therapy. Famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud also used his dogs to improve his communications with patients, citing that they had an innate ability to sense non-verbal tension and anxiety. By definition, Therapy Dogs are pets that improve your health by giving emotional support. However, the dogs that are based at schools across the Trust are much more than that.
Sue Bambridge, from Bromley Beacon Academy Orpington, describes how the Cavapoo “has taught several children (& staff) to overcome their extreme fear of dogs and they now ask to spend time with him! He is also there for staff when they need a bit of ‘Rocco time’, sometimes going for several walks each day but always showing everyone the same excitement when he sees them. If only people could be so generous with their time and love! He is such a valued member of the team and he is loved by all that meet him.”
Speaking for Belmont Academy, Headteacher Lucy Childs writes “Our therapy dog Betsy is a Schnoodle which is a mix between a miniature poodle and a schnauzer. She will be 2 in October this year and has been with Belmont for a year now. Betsy lives with Nicci Garlick our Teaching and Learning Lead for Y1/2/3.
She is very much loved by staff, pupils and parents and is on the school site four days a week. She spends a lot of her time with our two HLTA’s Mrs Place and Mrs Faulkes and visits classes to help with the delivery of PSHE, interventions and reading support. Betsy also works with Mrs Law our SENCo and works 1:1 with pupils who have a range of needs including anxiety and ASD. Betsy is a regular on the school gates in the morning and has definitely helped reluctant pupils feel ready to leave their adult and come into school. She was recently awarded her gold therapy dog award.”
Carolyn Potts, Head of Key Stage 2 at Bromley Trust Academy Midfield described how Labradoodle Sadie “has been coming into school since she was 6 months old and she turns 6 in April. She loves being in school and especially likes the treats she gets when people come to visit. She enjoys greeting visitors and showing off one or two of her tricks. Sadie spends her time in the year 5/ 6 classroom although she is always available to go for a walk or chase a ball with other children in the school, especially if it is a reward for good behaviour. She does a great job helping children come into school in the morning if they are finding it difficult to transition. Sadie is also very good at calming pupils down if they are upset or worried. Sadie looks forward to all the attention and cuddles she gets from the adults in school too - she can often be found having a snooze in the corridor waiting for someone to come by for a chat. Although Sadie loves being in school, she also gets rest time away from the busy classroom so she can recharge her batteries and be ready for the next tennis ball that comes flying through the air!”
Corrinia Vincent, Assistant Headteacher of Woodside Academy writes “Mr Bramble is a 25kg Labradoodle who loves to be stroked. He is quite partial to a treat and a nap! He has been at Woodside Academy for just over 2 years and supports social situations and helps with emotional aspects that some children and young people find difficult.
Here is what some of the children say about Mr Bramble:
‘He makes me happy and stops me from getting angry.’ - Josh
‘His fur is very soft and stroking him makes me feel happy and calm.’ - Phoebe
‘If I was a pet, I’d love him, but I do love him’ - Ollie
‘I just love him! – You have my cat and I take Bramble’ – Ethan (EYFS)
‘He calms me down and helps me, he is so soft’ – Marley
“Loki, Aspire’s school dog, has been with us since September 2021.” Says Sarah Tuffin, Aspire Academy HLTA “He is a Cavapoo and will celebrate his first birthday on 14th April. Loki isn’t just our school dog; he is also a working dog and, on the 11th October 2021, he successfully completed his Bronze training and officially joined the Dog Mentor Programme. During Dog Mentor sessions Loki joined Mrs Tuffin to work with specially selected students. These sessions encourage students to use the human-animal bond to build and develop their self-esteem and resilience. The programme can help to improve confidence, relationship building and communication skills. These new skills can be taken into the classroom and help them to identify and regulate their emotions, which in turn helps them to access the school curriculum. The students also use their newfound skills to become ‘dog trainers’ and teach Loki to do a variety of tricks. Although Loki hasn’t been at Aspire for very long it would be very difficult to imagine the place without him now!”
It is clear to see the value these dogs bring to their educational settings, whether to calm children or be doting companions for staff. Keep up the amazing work LSEAT Dogs!