Herbert our Reading Dog

“Every once in a while a dog enters your life and changes everything”


The Tale of a Coppice Companion

  • The Bearded Collie is one of the oldest breeds in Britain, originating in Scotland. “Beardies” were bred to help farmers herd sheep and cattle in all weathers.

  • Beardies are a medium-sized dog, who grow a long coat of hair, if the owner wishes them to do so.  Their coats change colour for the first few years of their lives.

  • They are very enthusiastic dogs who are eager to please and learn.

  • Herbert is a member of the Kennel Club.

  • Herbert loves to go for walks and to chase balls.

  • Herbert is a very playful, friendly and loving dog.  He is still learning as he is so young, and the pupils will be taught to approach and work with Herby appropriately.



Benefits of dogs in Schools

  • Numerous research studies have supported the benefits dogs may have on children.

  • Dogs can enhance children’s psychological development, improve social skills, and increase self-esteem among other benefits.

  • Dogs can also teach responsibility, compassion and respect for other living things.

  • Dogs in the classroom can be used to calm fears, relieve anxiety and teach skills.

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


Potential Objections

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.


What are our goals for having a dog in school?

  • Herbert will initially work with children to improve reading skills, comprehension and to increase confidence and literary interest.

  • Students will practice reading, or be involved with someone else reading, to build upon their reading and comprehension skills in an enjoyable environment. Herbert won’t judge the child’s skills, enabling them to relax, pat the dog and focus on reading.

  • Practicing reading and comprehension skills, whilst building self-esteem and confidence, combined with associating reading as a pleasant activity, will hopefully lead to better outcomes for the children.

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