In this article, Cherryl Drabble discloses five reasons why including a School Dog can be Beneficial for both School Staff and Students. She is the author of Introducing a School Dog, a book full of insights and anecdotes from when Highfurlong School welcomed their new school dog: Doodles.

Physical Impact

The biggest impact we have seen since introducing Doodles, our school dog, has been increased confidence for our children. For example, we have a five year old girl who was unable to walk and feared attempting to walk due to the pain it caused. When we stood her in her walking frame and gave her Doodles’ lead to hold she began to take her first steps in order to walk Doodles down the corridor. The same child was also unable to talk but such is the strength of her love for Doodles that she can now say two words, ‘Doodles’ and ‘doggy’ to request the dog. We also have a six year old who needs lots of guidance to keep him on task as he can be quite wilful. He needs to strengthen his legs yet refuses to walk. Once again, Doodles came to the rescue. Our boy is now the register monitor and walks Doodles to collect the register daily. This is a double win as he is exercising and also developing a sense of self worth which is helping to keep him on track. These are just two examples of many physical improvements we have seen.

Teamwork and Exercise

Another area where Doodles has had an impact has been teamwork and exercise. During the winter months the children who are physically able are encouraged to play outside. Like all children they are rather reluctant to do this. Once we introduced Doodles at playtime we saw children clamouring to spend break outside, so much so that a rota was needed for Doodles’ time. When classes had the dog in their care we discovered there was always a natural leader amongst them who would organise the games and be the one in charge of the dog. Such leadership skills are to be encouraged and nurtured. Other children were simply happy to throw a ball for Doodles and to run with him to retrieve it. Exercise is a bonus we hadn’t anticipated.

Innovative Lessons

Staff immediately saw the value of introducing Doodles to their lessons, either in physical form or on paper. An ICT teacher used Doodles’ photograph to demonstrate how to make personalised Christmas cards. He also introduced a game of Monopoly using ‘Doodles Dollars’ which really tapped into the young people’s interests. A further example of innovative planning was when a key stage one teacher used Doodles to demonstrate how to cross a road safely. Immediately all the children wanted to take Doodles safely across their makeshift road.

In Key stage five there is a young man who is following a personalised pathway towards external accreditation. He has some challenges around his attention and joining lessons. Once we introduced Doodles to his sessions he became far more willing to participate in his modules. Doodles is more than happy to listen while he plays a musical instrument and he is happy to watch him have a hand massage and occasionally he has a paw massage too. Our younger children love to read to Doodles. He sits quietly and listens in a non judgemental way and this builds their confidence.

Feel Good Factor and Stress Busting

One of the first things we saw when we introduced Doodles to our staff was the feel good factor that swept around the school. Staff loved the idea of having a dog on site permanently. They regularly come for Doodles’ cuddles if they are tired or feeling down and they report that he puts a smile on their faces. Doodles is hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed his hair. Staff and children love the sensory experience of running their fingers through his fur and say it’s very calming. Doodles has also had a calming effect on two children with behaviour challenges. They choose to come and spend time with him when life is getting them down and they cannot cope. A little time with a dog works wonders and they are soon able to return to class.

Where can people find out more about the book?

The book is available online through Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Amazon, Waterstones, etc. You can also order it into your local bookshop if you prefer!

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