“Every once in a while a dog enters your life and changes everything”
Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses
Social – a visit with a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, promotes greater self-esteem and well-being, and focused interaction with others
Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem solving and game playing
Emotional – an adorable four-legged visitor improves self-esteem, acceptance from others and lifts mood - often provoking laughter
Environmental – a dog in a facility decreases the feeling of a sterile environment, lifts mood and this continues after visit
It is inevitable that questions and concerns will be raised when introducing a dog at Coppice.
The RSPCA estimate that there are approximately 8.5 million dogs kept as pets in the UK. Schools are beginning to recognise how dogs can be an asset to our children’s lives. However, it can still be seen as quite ‘radical’ introducing a dog into a school.
Allergic reactions – Parents have been asked to state whether their child suffers from allergic reactions and if they want their child to have access to the dog. School staff will keep a keen eye on pupils, to see if potential allergies are occurring. Herbert is showered and groomed at least once a week (muddy paws dependent!) and he visits the doggy salon every 6-8 weeks to keep him looking and smelling handsome!
Animal maintenance – Herbert visits the vet regularly, where he receives regular worming, tick and flea preventatives. He will have his own fenced-off area and kennel within the school grounds, where he can have his own space away from the children, and the children won’t be distracted by him. This is both for Herbert’s wellbeing, and the children’s. Herbert will rest here, when he isn’t working with the children in an allocated area.
Fear of dogs – Some pupils may have had traumatic experiences with a dog, and may fear contact. Permission is needed by parents for pupils to see Herbert, and if pupils are distressed or indicate they don’t want to be around the dog, they will be removed from the situation. If pupils are nervous around dogs, but you would like your child to try and get over their fears, we will work in extremely small steps to do this, making sure that the child is comfortable at all times. It is possible that children can get over their fear of animals, and grow a respect and appreciation of them.
After building bonds and relationships with the pupils, Herbert may work with our pupils in other areas, for example:
Increasing empathy/compassion – Herbert may work with pupils who are angry, or have bullying behaviours. It is also a common stereotype that all children with autism ‘lack empathy’. As parents and carers, we know this is incorrect. However, a dog may aid children in facing their own feelings.
Improving confidence and self-esteem – Social interactions may be difficult for pupils with autism and SEN but dogs do not judge. The companionship and friendships built between children and dogs can lead to increased confidence.
Inclusion – Dogs can help reduce anxiety felt by some children in social settings that are stressful. They may feel more at ease in the company of a dog, so are more willing to be included and communicate with those around them.
"When I needed a hand, I found your paw"
"There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do" - Dr Temple Grandin