Therapy dogs at Kings Hill School
At Kings Hill School, we have a long history of working with therapy dogs. For many years Duke, an American Cocker Spaniel has supported our children. Sadly Duke passed away in 2022 so now we have one therapy dog called Thea, a Labrador Retriever.
Thea was born in April 2020 during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Her full name, Althea is after the Greek God of healing.
The sessions have helped my child's well being and social skills.
What a great initiative by the school to introduce pets and animals into school.
The sessions boosted my child's confidence.
Below are a list of the benefits of animal assisted activity and in particular the contribution of therapy dogs which can be used to calm fears, relieve anxiety, and teach skills.
Interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses.
A visit with a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, promotes greater self-esteem and well-being, and focused interaction with others.
Companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem solving and game playing.
An adorable four-legged visitor improves self-esteem, acceptance from others, and lifts mood often provoking laughter.
A dog in a school decreases the feeling of a sterile environment, lifts mood and this continues after a visit.
Research into Pet Therapy
Research has demonstrated that therapy dogs properly managed in the school setting can not only make a measurable difference in terms of gaining various skills such as reading enhancement, but also in contributing critically to emotional and relational development. Schools are finding that the presence of a therapy dog can decrease anxiety and enable children to work through issues such as anger management, bullying tendencies and others social problems. The introduction of a therapy dog can serve as a catalytic vehicle for forming adaptive and satisfactory social interactions. Guided activities and group discussions help teach students how to handle interpersonal conflicts and develop constructive responses.
What kind of Therapy Dog ?
Animal maintenance- Reliable therapy dog organisations-such as Pets as Therapy (PAT) require regular veterinarian checks for their dogs along with regular evaluations of their handlers to maintain their certification status. Competent dog handlers are trained to watch for potential harm to either a child or their own dog and are primarily responsible to manage the animal when on site.
Fear of dogs-There is no doubt that some children have had very traumatic experiences with a pet and thus have a severe fear of contact with a dog for example, because the therapy dog program is implemented by permission or voluntarily, and only in areas where unwanted contact with a dog can be avoided, the fear issue can be minimized. Experience and research has also shown that with proper guidance and handling, children can learn to overcome their fear of animals and with it, grow in respect and appreciation of them.
School Registration- It is necessary to formally register your school programme with the dog therapy organisation Pets as Therapy which is a volunteer organisation, these volunteers are certified and regulated by PAT. All volunteers have DBS checks.
What are the Goals of a Pet Therapy Programme?
While therapy dogs have been used fairly widely in recent years for reading enhancement, a therapy dog programme can contribute much more. Here is a summary of the areas where the proper use of therapy dogs in a school setting can contribute significantly and help to achieve important goals in pupil development:
Dogs can assist counsellors working with pupils who have anger management issues, bullying behaviour and other anti-social conduct.
GOAL: Increase empathy/compassion.
Dogs can assist children who are victims of bullying and related behaviours.
GOAL: Improve self-esteem.
Dogs can contribute to the improvement of reading and comprehension skills of students having difficulties.
GOAL: Improve reading skills, comprehension and increase confidence and literary interest.
Dogs can help in the reduction of stress and anxiety among children in social settings that are stressful:
GOAL:Reduce anxiety levels and help children to decompress after traumatic circumstances