Therapy dogs are known to provide benefits in schools such as building confidence, motivation, improving literacy skills and even increasing student attendance. Animal assisted therapy also helps to teach empathy, sooth anxiety and build rapport.
A delightful golden Labrador named Ajax has now joined the team at Trundle Central School in West N.S.W. Ajax who lives with the principal is employed as a therapy dog and will be at school working to a timetable. He is permanently placed there because the young students are feeling the pressures their families are experiencing whilst they endure the drought.
Usually a dog like Ajax would be placed working with one individual or in a family home but he has already demonstrated that he can do a great job outside a family environment. Are we likely to see more therapy dogs being introduced to schools? We believe so. It has been trialed in Florida having therapy dogs to provide support and comfort for students returning to school after fatal shootings. You may have also read our recent blog about ‘Story Dogs’ demonstrating how dogs can be so helpful in a reading program for kids.
Therapy dogs are different to service dogs. While service dogs provide assistance to a single individual, therapy dogs take guidance and direction from their owner whilst they respond to a range of people in the surrounding environment. Both help reduce stress in humans by the human/dog attachment increasing levels of oxytocin (which is a hormone that helps to increase trust). Equally, dogs also experience production of oxytocin when they bond with familiar humans.
There is a significant degree of knowledge and work that goes into action prior to a therapy dog entering a school. Dogs for such jobs are chosen very carefully and need to pass strict testing before being accepted as a candidate. We are confident we will see an increase in this type of therapy with a range of models, being available to students both young and old.
Leah & Angela OMeara
Hound Dog Day Care (Specialists in Dog Minding & Dog Boarding, Pet Sitting Brisbane & Doggy Day Care Brisbane)