Dogs in schools and in therapy settings are becoming more common place and Hatherop is no exception. Many families bring their dogs to collect their children but there are also dogs on both the teaching and boarding teams.
There are many benefits to having a school dog and before we introduce a dog to the school these are carefully considered to ensure that both the dog and the children are receiving the greatest benefit. Children love the sense of responsibility that having a dog in their classroom brings. When a class know that Tessa is due to visit, it is amazing how quickly and carefully they can tidy up. Through careful interactions, children learn how to behave with care, giving them a direct understanding of how their behaviour can influence another person or being.
For some children coming into school and even a classroom can be a daunting experience. Having a dog nearby can lessen their anxiety, taking time to stroke a dog helps to diffuse complicated feelings. A wagging tail ready to welcome helps to break down the barriers some children feel when walking through a classroom door. If children are having a tough day, or conflict has arisen between two friends, a dog’s presence, either in the classroom or going for a walk, can provide a safe buffer to explore difficult feelings.
For those children who do not have a dog at home, it gives them an invaluable opportunity to learn how to interact positively in a controlled environment. Being able to understand different dogs and what to expect can be an important life skill. For those children who are unsure or afraid, small steps and interactions can be planned to lower some of their worries. Seeing a dog on break duty is a common sight at Hatherop Castle and allows children the chance to see how dogs can interact from a safe distance.
Ultimately, a school dog can be a child’s best friend. Whatever mistake the child may make, however badly a lesson may have gone, the school dog does not judge.