Top tips for introducing a School Dog to help your students

with Cherryl Drabble, SEND educator

Support and animals can have a very beneficial effect on children with additional needs or who have experienced trauma. But not every child who needs one is lucky enough to get the opportunity.

If you're a practitioner who's considering how you could provide the comfort of a school dog for the students in your school, SEND specialist educator, Cherryl Drabble has written the book you need. She's here to tell us more and to offer a copy to giveaway! (Form at the end)

Tips for helping your school accommodate a therapeutic dod by Cherryl Drabble

In 2017 I was Assistant Head at a special school in Blackpool. The children attending our school all had additional needs. Some had profound and multiple health needs while others had physical or behavioural challenges. At that time, I began to notice the emergence of dogs in schools, particularly in primary schools. 

On the back of this observation, I visited a few schools to discover how these dogs were being deployed. Most were used primarily as a reward for good work or as a reading/listening dog to encourage children to read. I thought this was a marvellous idea and pondered how we could use a dog in our setting. 

As detailed in my book, after much research and discussion I purchased a Schnoodle and named him Doodles. His remit was determined before he set a paw in school. His main role was to calm the children who experience meltdowns due to autism spectrum conditions, ADHD, or sensory issues. He would also be outside at break encouraging the older children to take some exercise rather than fiddling with digital devices. Further down the line, if all went well he would visit lessons and be with children who had worked hard or who'd finished their work early. His presence would be an incentive for all the school. These were our hopes for Doodles, but what we got from Doodles was so much more!

Introducing a School Dog: Our Adventures with Doodles the Schnoodle
Introducing a School Dog: Our Adventures with Doodles the Schnoodle

Why a Doodle?

In my book ‘Introducing a School Dog’ I give details of how I chose that particular brand of puppy. I talk of puppy training and in particular, training for his role as a school dog. I tell many stories of Doodles’ success. There is a heart-warming story of how he quelled the distressed tears of a little girl with profound needs who is also visually impaired. There are details of how he helped a young man who really struggled to regulate his behaviour. Doodles would lie down with the boy and allow him to run his fingers through his curls until he was thoroughly calm. It was a sight to behold. There is also the success of a young girl with ASC who was afraid to enter the school hall due to the crowds of people and the accompanying noise. She became aware that the dog was wary of the noise and took it upon herself to coax him into the hall; a success for both her and her furry friend. The book contains many such success stories. 

Since the publication of my book, Doodles has helped many other schools to introduce their own school dogs. He has his own account on Twitter and we offer advice to other teachers and schools when asked. 

My Top Five Tips for introducing a school dog

If purchasing a school dog I would offer five top tips.

  1. Do your research! There are many things to consider when deciding on a breed of dog. 
  2. Make sure your head teacher and the governing body are thoroughly on board with the idea, just in case there is anyone further down the line who may voice a complaint. 
  3. Make sure there is someone else who will take a turn to walk your dog at break and lunchtime. Remember, you also need to eat and have a comfort break. 
  4. Think about who will pay the insurance and any vet bills that may arise due to an injury to your dog (or human!) while at school. This can be complicated.
  5. This sounds obvious, but who owns the dog? The dog may be an expensive item to purchase and you need to consider the implications of ownership if you leave the school. 

All of these things are incredibly important considerations. I explain how to deal with these points in my book

There are some who say that schools are no place for dogs. I would dispute this. Doodles absolutely adored being with the children and the benefits they had from having him in school cannot be underestimated. I highly recommend more schools have a dog on their premises.

Cherryl Drabble
Cherryl Drabble

Win a copy of Introducing a School Dog: Our Adventures with Doodles the Schnoodle by Cherryl Drabble

Add your details below to be in with a chance of winning a copy. Terms and Conditions after the form. Giveaway closes on 5th September 2022. You can also order the book from Amazon UK here*

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