The School Dogs
The School Dogs are highly trained dogs who are of impeccable temperament, have undergone in-depth positive reinforcement training and who then have been rigorously assessed to clarify that they are competent and safe to work in the school environment. Training for each School Dog Team takes 2 years and each team has to pass 6 assessments. Once Certified, each School Dog Team is annually assessed in their working environment. All D.H.K. School Dogs will be provided with harnesses, leads, collars and identification to prove that they are Certified DHK School Dogs.
The School Dogs are divided into four different groups – visiting, attending, educational and support.
These dogs are in 'attendance' at the same school most days. They will normally be owned by a member of the school staff or the head teacher. They will be an integral part of the school teaching team and will be highly valued by the school and the children.
These dogs work with and 'support' teenagers through difficult times in their lives, those with anxiety or depression, those at risk, and those with social deprivation. These dogs will be trained to support teenagers (and occasionally younger children) in the educational environment, teach them the new skill of kind, positive dog training and be there as a best friend. The DHK Support School Dogs will have been carefully selected for their incredibly calm, gentle, very quiet behaviour, and as such, are completely suited to working with these vulnerable young people on a one-one basis.
These dogs will be owned and trained by the teenager and his/her family. Liam and his DHK Support School Dog, Charlie, were our first officially trained DHK Personal Support School Dog Team. Over the years we hope to work with and support similar teenagers with the help of a carefully selected dog.
These dogs will accompany DHK staff on 'educational' school talks in schools and colleges. They will be able to demonstrate clicker training in action in very busy environments, happy to visit different educational establishments, and will be trained to meet and greet the children after each educational talk.
These dogs ‘visit’ one school as often as they can. This can be as little as a few hours every month, an hour or a few hours each week or a day (sometimes more) a week. These School Dogs are owned by DHK volunteers and they work with children either on a one-one basis or in small groups.
The roles of the D.H.K. School Dogs in the educational environment are many. Once Certified each School Dog will have been trained and assessed to be able to provide all of these specially designed roles. However, some of our School Dogs will offer all of these roles; some of them will completely specialise in one role only.
These roles consist of the following:-
These dogs will be happy to simply ‘chill out’ in the classroom whilst the children are having their lesson (s). Their very presence will have a calming effect on the children. Research studies in both Britain and America have concluded that having a dog in a school classroom can have many positive benefits – these include help to calm children down, improve academic achievement, motivate those children who are often not that attentive, teach responsibility and encourage children to respect all life. Furthermore it has been shown that when classmates share the affection and care of a ‘class’ dog, a bond forms among the classmates and strengthens their team ethics.
These dogs will be incredibly calm and happy to have an individual child read to them. Dogs give unconditional acceptance, as they are non-judgmental, which is especially crucial to struggling, emerging readers. The listening canines also provide confidence to children as they do not make fun of them when they read, but above all they make amazing listeners, providing the children with a sense of comfort and love. In America, the ‘Read’ Dogs, as they are known, have proved through research that children who read to these dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition, a higher desire to read and write, and an increase in intra and interpersonal skills among the children they mix with.
Reading with our School Dogs is supported by the Kennel Club's
Bark and Read Foundation.
These dogs will be gentle and loving, but at the same time full of fun and enjoyment for the children. Those children who have performed incredibly well during the week or those who have made progress in a certain subject, or those who have achieved tasks set for them, will be rewarded with spending time during lunch or break to interact with these dogs. Walking, grooming, playing and training are some of the responsibilities the children will be allowed to undertake with the reward dogs. It has been proved that working and playing with a dog improves children’s social skills and self esteem.
These dogs will work with children on a one-one basis and will especially help those children who have been bullied, abused, suffering with emotional issues, going through upsetting/difficult times or even scared/phobic of dogs. These dogs will bring much joy and help to all the children they meet. Children who struggle with social interaction can find a reassuring friend in a DHK School Dog.