Our school dog is Buddy, who is also Mrs Silvester’s family pet. Buddy is a Pomsky and was born on 27th June 2020. His breed was selected due to its intelligent, affectionate and loving disposition. Buddy was then chosen as an example of the breed who seemed calm and confident enough to work with children. Buddy had lots of early socialisation at the home of his breeder and is undergoing additional training to ensure his suitability to work in a school. He has regular check-ups at the vet and has updated vaccinations, flea and worming treatment.
Karen Silvester, Headteacher of Greenwood Primary School has been considering the options regarding the possibility of having a dog as a school pet over the past 12 months. With the support of the Governing Body, this has led to the final decision to introduce a puppy in January 2021.
The rationale behind the decision was:
1. To have a pet that the children could interact with and for it to be of benefit to the children’s social and emotional development
2. To have a pet that can specifically assist the growing number of children that we have with autism, and personal, social and emotional needs
3. To improve a variety of aspects of our children through the use of a school dog; for example, improved self-esteem, improved understanding of responsibility, respect and care, further development of empathy and the ability to nurture others
It is accepted that interacting with animals is not appropriate for all children but that for some it has the potential to provide many positive benefits. Any parent who does not wish their child to interact with the puppy is invited to write to inform Mrs Silvester of their wishes. This risk assessment will be reviewed regularly and the impact of a school dog will be evaluated by the school senior management team.
Children can benefit educationally and emotionally, increase their understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills through contact with a dog. In addition to these benefits, children take great enjoyment from interaction with a dog. By having a dog in school we want to encourage those children specifically who are vulnerable, or those who are less confident with learning to have a friendly audience and to look forward to a challenge. Having a dog in school can encourage reluctant children to come to school. The vast majority of dogs are gentle and loving, offering children opportunities to improve social development skills, unconditional acceptance and the chance to do something really well. For some children, a dog will be a special friend, helping them to build self-esteem, relax and have fun. For others, time spent with a dog will be a reward for excellent effort with a difficult challenge.
What are the benefits of a school dog?
• Improved pupil behaviour and concentration
• Reduces stress and improved self-esteem
• A calming effect on pupils
• Encourages expression, participation and confidence in all children
• Fostering a sense of responsibility
• Motivating pupils to think and to learn
• Encouraging respect and thereby improving pupils' relationships with each other, parents and teachers
• Teaching children to nurture and respect life
• Helping work undertaken with the most vulnerable children
• Helping overcome a fear of dogs
• Increasing staff morale and wellbeing
• Developing the understanding of unconditional love
• Supporting with the development of cooperative play
• Supporting children to develop empathy
• Further promote our wellbeing agenda for pupils
• Enthusiasm for and enjoyment of animals
• Improving attendance