Is there a place for dogs in schools?

19th Jun 2020

I admit it – I love dogs! Dogs of all shapes and sizes!  Well, actually that’s not true – at the risk of offence, you can keep your Chihuahuas! To me, a dog makes a home complete and more than ever, during lockdown, my dog Murphy has kept me company, amused and exercised. However, is a school the right place for a dog?

At the Coppice Primary School, they have Rufus, the Site Manager’s dog, who is an absolute asset to the school. He “works” in the Thrive department – a social and emotional development team who work closely with many pupils across the school. The programme has shown that contact and interaction with animals has many benefits for children. They can benefit educationally and emotionally, increase their understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills. In addition to these benefits, many children take simple, yet enormous pleasure from interaction with animals. Whenever children come into school upset, the first port of call is Rufus, who takes their mind off leaving Mum or Dad and nine times out of ten, they trot merrily in behind Rufus, without a care in the world.

In a blog by Alison Broad, Director of Primary Education at the University of Birmingham, she states “One teacher told me: Children drop their guard and they tell him [the dog] things that they would never tell us or another grown up”. This resonates with the pioneering work of Boris Levinson, considered by many to be the founding father of modern canine-assisted therapy. Levinson discovered that the presence of his dog, Jangles, had a positive impact upon his young patients by facilitating a less stressful, more informal therapeutic setting, conducive to greater self-disclosure and enhanced treatment outcomes (Levinson, 1969)”.

For any schools concerned about reactions from children or parents, they could try a visiting dog scheme such as Pets as Therapy or Read2Dogs. Dogs for Good also run a community dog scheme for children with special educational needs.

Children and other adults in the school do need to be briefed on acceptable interaction with the dog with rules of engagement – certainly no pulling on its tail or chasing it around the playground but my personal view is that it is entirely possible for a dog to thrive in a school and they soon become a valued member of the team.

For more information on Alison Broad’s research, you can visit her blogs here: