Reggie, the school dog - a case study
The School Dog
Case study on how animals in school support the behaviours of vulnerable children.
At the beginning on this academic year, a new member of ‘staff’ joined the schools in The Genesis Education Trust. Reggie – a Labradoodle - has been welcomed by staff and pupils alike.
Why have a school dog?
Psychological studies reviewing the relationship between animals and children have revealed the very positive affect they have.
‘Children exhibited a more playful mood, were more focused, and were more aware of their social environments when in the presence of a therapy dog.’
(Blue, G.F. (1986). The Value of Pets in Children's Lives. Childhood Education.)
We have a history of animals in schools. At St Saviour’s Primary School in Walthamstow, we have had chickens and cats for a long time and recently three Alpacas arrived to enhance the menagerie. So, why not a dog?
Reggie lives with one of our Head teachers, who works across all our schools, so Reggie is familiar with all the different settings and the children are familiar with him. Labradoodles are hypoallergenic animals so there is no problem for children with allergies meeting Reggie. He has been to puppy training to make sure that he is a well-mannered dog and was familiarised with the schools at a very young age, so he has no anxiety about coming to ‘work’. He has spent time with, and been walked by, lots of different members of staff so he is not stressed or nervous around strangers.
So, what is his role?
Reggie, as you can see, is adorable. He brings a smile to everyone’s faces as he bounds down the corridor, but more significantly, he has a positive effect on lots of children.
Y4 child -Complex medical conditions and global developmental delay.
They have a volatile personality and can get very angry and uncooperative.
They get very excited when they see Reggie and he will distract them from what has made them upset and this calms them down. As a result, staff can talk to them, to discuss their actions and possible consequences, when they are calm.
They had had no exposure to dogs before they met Reggie and, although at first they were nervous around him, they have grown confident enough to stroke him.
This bears out the evidence that ‘The mere presence of animals positively alters children’s attitudes about themselves and increases their ability to relate to others.’
( Kirton, A., Wirrell, E., Zhang, J., Hamiwka, L. (2004). Seizure-alerting and -response behaviours in dogs living with epileptic children.)
Y6 child. ASD
They commented that they like to stroke Reggie ‘because it makes me feel good.’ They said that they thought that Reggie was a good thing to have in school because it helps the children.
The adults who support these children also remarked that Reggie has had a very positive impact on the children they work with, often allowing them the opportunity to ‘chill out’ when they have become stressed or angry.
Reggie’s owner is delighted with the impact he has had. Children often request time with Reggie, which can break down barriers. The children love to play with him in the gym or playground and to help with his retrieval training!
As Reggie starts his ‘career’ we look forward to seeing more of the positive impact a school dog brings.
‘Pets help children develop in various areas including love, attachment, and comfort; sensorimotor and nonverbal learning; responsibility, nurturance, and competence; learning about the life cycle; therapeutic benefits; and nurturing humanness, ecological awareness, and ethical responsibilities.’ (Lockwood, R. 1983. The influence of animals on social perception. New Perspectives on Our lives with Companion Animals.)