Three reasons why every school should have a dog

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A school girl and a Dogue de Bordeaux stand in front of a house

If their waggy tails, puppy-dog eyes and loving disposition alone aren’t enough to convince you that dogs belong in school, consider this: multiple studies have shown that simply stroking a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol, while the interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.

This fact alone should be a reason to have a school dog. If you need more convincing though, dogs in schools have proved to help develop children’s academic confidence, boost attendance and improve behaviour. Continue reading to find out three reasons why all  schools should definitely have a dog!

Academic Confidence

Schools that regularly have a school dog on site have shown to increase children’s confidence with regards to their academic performance. Something as simple as reading to the dog can lead to a child becoming more relaxed, less self-conscious and there is less fear of being judged for their reading ability, as dogs, by nature, are non-judgemental.

With that non-judgemental character, some children find talking out loud to the school dog while undertaking assessments to be of great benefit.  The dog acts as a sounding board and children even like to pretend the dog has ‘given them the answer’. Reading to a dog can nurture a child’s enthusiasm for reading and improve self-esteem. Research has even demonstrated that children who read to dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition and a higher desire to read and write.

Boosting Attendance

Many children with anxiety find just the thought of coming into school very challenging. The thought of seeing the dog each day can provide motivation that will alleviate some of the stresses that are associated with just entering the school site. As little as five minutes with the school dog and helping the dog get situated each day (e.g. setting up the dog bed, changing the water, giving a stroke and talking to the dog) can instantly change that child’s outlook on coming into school.

The calming effect that a school dog can have on a child is lasting and instantaneous. Parents have even reported that children have more of an interest in school as a result of having a dog on site.

Improving Behaviour

Children, especially those with complex social and emotional needs, benefit tremendously from having a dog on site. These children can use the presence of the school dog to help soothe anxiety and they often feel more comfortable discussing difficult topics with a dog beside them.

Those children who struggle with ‘doing the right thing’ often want to earn time visiting the dog and will try to adapt their behaviour to obtain this reward. Furthermore, having a school dog has been shown to develop children’s understanding of responsibility and cultivate their empathy and nurturing skills.  According to the Mental Health Foundation, pets help children build vital social confidence and skills.

Having a loveable dog as part of a school can significantly improve the way children approach their learning.  From building confidence in academics, improving attendance and developing positive behaviour, a school dog is just one way to improve the overall well-being of children and adults in a school setting.

This is a guest post by Tegan Springate. Want to submit your own writing? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

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