There is a new kind of pawsome pal in town, the ‘school well-being dog!’ It’s a new concept to many of us but it is an incentive that has been publically recommended by the Education Secretary Damian Hinds, who says that more and more schools seem to be accepting ‘well-being dogs’ into their school communities and that ‘pets can really help!’ But what is a well-being dog, how can it benefit students and how does a school obtain one?
Firstly, it is important to outline the issues that pupils face, as this ultimately sets the foundational needs for a well-being dog to come into the school community. Students feel an increased pressure via social media to appear ‘perfect’ and this can lead to online bullying, where students can feel they have no escape even once they go home from school. This can be extremely difficult for young individuals and lead to adolescent mental health issues such as; self-harming, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
Bringing a pet into the school is said to increase a sense of well-being and safety for students, which in turn can have a positive effect on their mental health. Students can relate to animals and they have a soothing presence within the school environment. Mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed in schools and the emotional well-being of students needs to be developed, so that they can cope in later life.
Well-being dogs are a low-cost effective solution to assisting young people with feeling safe within the school and improving their mental health. Students can empathise with animals in a way that they can’t always with other humans and this develops their emotional well-being. Having a dog in school can be an uplifting experience and assist individuals in feeling more relaxed, confident and ability to cope with challenging situations.
So how does a school obtain a well-being dog? Well there are large national companies which specialise specifically in rearing well-being dogs from puppies, there are also independent well-being dog handlers, who you can search for locally to your school. A school can seek out contact and commence communications with regards to how often the dog would be in school and which dog would suit the specific school environment. Once a suitable agreement is in place then parents will be contacted to seek written permission for their child to be involved in the well-being dog sessions, parents have the choice to opt out their child at this stage.
Then once all of the permission slips have been received back, the dog can begin coming into schools. Often dogs will start as puppies so that they can get used to their new school environment, simultaneously with the pupils getting used to their new pawfect pal! The dog can sit in the entrance of school and greet everyone as they come into class and then the well-being dog can usually roam around the school freely for a period of time, interacting with students!
One thing is for sure well-being dogs are well and truly perceived as part of the school community and positive interactions between the children and dog are welcomed and encouraged. At Scamps and Champs we think it is a fantastic idea both for the dog’s socialisation and for the emotional support and development of the children. Allowing dogs and children to interact positively will allow children who don’t have any animals at home, to reduce any anxieties they may have and support their confidence development.
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