There is a growing movement in many primary schools to introduce the concept of school pets as a way of teaching all children responsibility, as well as providing a source of pleasure and learning. Of particular interest, is the current move towards Reading Dogs and Therapy Dogs. The former is based on research which shows that many children who find reading practice difficult are more willing and able to read to the non-judgemental audience of an animal than they are to a human being. Therapy dogs are similarly being used as a source of comfort and relaxation for children who may need someone to talk to or just someone who will accept them and offer comfort or a calming influence in their lives. There is much evidence that children who struggle with relationships or with managing their own emotions gain a great deal from spending time with a dog.
As well as our new resident rabbit Patch, we are currently in the process of getting our own school dog, Willow, who is a friendly, dog used to being around young children and who loves to play with new friends. Obviously, bringing any animal into school is not something to be approached lightly, both for the animal’s sake and for the sake of the children and adults in school. Therefore, prior to bringing in Willow, we are looking at how other local schools utilise school dogs and discussed the practicalities at length, including: risk assessments, insurance, training, doggy toileting and children’s allergies.
We are very mindful that introducing a dog into the school setting should not be a distraction to the children’s learning and for this to enhance our school ethos and the experiences we offer our children.