Hatherop Castle started welcoming dogs onto the site around 5 years ago. The new Headmaster brought his dog into his accommodation in the main building at the same time as another new member of staff, having just moved to the area, brought theirs in on a regular basis so that it could be looked after in school. The positive effects of welcoming our four-legged friends in were immediately clear and the pets soon became a focal point at playtime and in the boarding house. We started to welcome and encourage dogs into school having previously had a no dogs policy and from slow beginnings, more and more staff started to bring theirs in. Finally, we decided as a school to get a school therapy dog which was to be based in our Pre-Prep for the children. We now have around 6 dogs based at Hatherop.
Benefits to staff and children
The benefits of having dogs on site have been enormous for both staff and children. For staff the ability to have their companion with them even in the busiest of days has been greatly beneficial. Taking 5 minutes to get outdoors has promoted well-being and the dogs in school can have a calming influence on children too. That’s not to say that the dogs don’t get their fair share of exercise though when outside, the children love walking them in their break times and there is no end of opportunity for a run around.
Dogs in the Boarding House
Our boarders have perhaps benefited the most from having dogs around them. Having pets reinforces the home from home experience we want to promote in boarding and the children enjoy playing and spending time looking after the dogs in their free time. They learn many skills in the process, from understanding responsibility to the benefits of healthy exercise. Those who want some quiet time are able to share that too with a friend who doesn’t judge, comment or answer back but instead gives them undivided affection and loyalty. Dogs seem able to sense feelings in the children and react accordingly and nearly all our children take time out of their day to spend time with the animals.
Ultimately dogs are always excited to see us and this isn’t lost on the children. It’s the best feeling when you know there’s a big wagging tail there to greet you. They bring joy and happiness into our community and they are without doubt our school’s best friend. The Headmaster, Nigel Reed, says ‘We love having dogs at school. Both staff and children alike enjoy their company and they bring a calming and supportive atmosphere into all areas of the school. They are able to make our environment welcoming and friendly and their unwavering happiness and loyalty have helped create an enormous boost in our children’s well-being. Their companionship in the boarding house helps to reduce anxiety at drop off times. They can be great listeners, offer unconditional love and won’t criticise you and this in turn has helped boost our children’s self-confidence and even social skills’.