When students returned for their first week in school after the deadly shooting in Florida, their biggest surprise was the therapy dogs welcoming them. They were the perfect bunch, participating in all classes along with students while showering unconditional love and comfort.
It is not the first time that therapy dogs have been proved as a valuable friend to students. Several schools in the US, such as the Kings Hill School have introduced Pet Therapy Programmes to contribute to the improvement of the overall school experience. The merits of animal-assisted activity in schools are proving to be remarkable, encouraging more schools to undertake such initiatives.
The Effect of Therapy Dogs on Students
Therapy dogs are canines specially trained to provide relief for humans. In light of the rapid development of the practice of Assisted Animal Therapy, the presence of a therapy dog in classrooms is exhibiting several positive conclusions.
In a clinical research paper on the influence of animal-assisted therapy on students, the findings indicated that therapy dogs could serve as an intervention and help children learn skills resulting in better connections and relationships. Besides, they can also assist them in self-regulation as well as self-control.
The calm and stable temperament of therapy dogs allows them to mingle with children at ease. This encourages interaction, further increasing tactile stimulation, and reducing blood pressure. A therapy dog would encourage kids to move around, becoming their friend and ally, and presenting a safe and secure atmosphere.
Social and Emotional Benefits
It is not uncommon for children to struggle with social and emotional skills or the motivation to attend school. Research demonstrates that students made a point of attending classes so they could read to the dogs. They formed emotional bonds with the dogs and began reading and writing not required by the teacher.
Additionally, students also seem to improve strengthened relationships with peers and teachers, better expressing their feelings, and becoming more trustworthy. Having a dog in the educational setting can help decrease anxiety and work through issues of anger management, bullying, and other social problems.
Cognitive and Learning Benefits
Therapy dogs can also make a measurable difference in children experiencing challenges with comprehension, literacy, and concentration. They help them overcome learning difficulties such as ADHD, Autism, or Conduct Disorder. By stimulating memory, improving problem-solving, and game-playing skills, therapy dogs contribute significantly to enhancing their cognitive abilities.
As to its merits, the company of a therapy dog supports concentration, attention, and motivation. This is a reflection of the reduction in stress levels that inhibit active learning and performance.
What to Note?
While therapy dogs seem to be gaining popularity. In order to use them around students, schools should always get approval from guardians. Moreover, no interaction between the student and the dog should be forced.
Children need to be engaged in the learning process to learn. Dog-assisted programs could be an excellent way to motivate students and improve their confidence and self-esteem. If strict safety and hygiene protocols are followed, there is no reason these furry canines shouldn't make a pleasant addition to the classrooms.