Recently, there have been several news reports and articles about the use of therapy dogs in school. While this new development will make many animal lovers happy, the reason why dogs are being used as therapy dogs in many schools is saddening. In the wake of school shootings in cities such as Florida, special dogs have been assigned to schools to help students and teachers cope after the tragedy. In other cases, these special dogs can be found on campuses to help students cope with being far from home.
To be honest, these school shootings make no sense and one can only feel for all the victims involved. However, the idea of assigning a therapy dog to the affected individuals is nothing short of brilliant. Recent reports have shown just how helpful therapy dogs have been to victims of mass shootings. For example, a school teacher who lost two of her students in the Parkland school shooting in 2018 has found her therapy dog, Luigi to be of tremendous help. You can learn more about them here.
What Are Therapy Dogs?
Many people often use the term ’therapy dogs’ and ’service dogs’ interchangeably. It is important to note that therapy dogs and service dogs serve different functions. Service dogs are dogs that have been individually trained to execute particular tasks and to work with disabled people. A service dog’s work is directly related to the disability of its owner. Additionally, service dogs have full public access rights.
Therapy dogs, on the other hand, play a different role. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are not trained to work with a specific handler. Rather, they work as volunteers (usually, with their human owners) in nursing homes, hospitals, and in this case, schools. Hence, therapy dogs in school have a calm temperament that helps them get along with different people under different environments.
The Benefits of Therapy Dogs In School
For students who have a hard time adapting to a new environment or to make friends, therapy dogs in school have proven to be very effective in helping such students. When two students feel drawn to the same dog, there seems to be a bond that is formed since they now have something in common. This can be the start of a great friendship between both students. Therapy dogs help create a feeling of warmth and togetherness.
As a result, students are better equipped in coping with their new surroundings and have more self-esteem among their peers.
Although this may come as a surprise, having therapy dogs in school can help improve the grades of students. When a student begins to develop an anxiety disorder, such a student may turn in low-quality work (if any at all), such that their grades start dropping. Therapy dogs, however, are always there to the rescue.
Therapy dogs are effective in providing cognitive assistance. Reports have shown that therapy dogs in schools can increase retention rates in classrooms and can enhance problem-solving skills. Little wonder that many schools have begun to accept the use of therapy dogs in helping students get better grades.
Emotional and Mental Support
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that one out of eight teenagers between 13-18 years suffer from a type of anxiety disorder. These teens, if left unchecked may begin to have mental issues. The use of therapy dogs has been able to help these teens focus on other things instead of their emotional struggles. It is important for students to feel loved and accepted in their environment, and this is what therapy dogs provide. Therapy dogs bring nothing but joy to classrooms.
When anxiety disorders are not noticed in students on time, such students may begin to develop poor social skills, their performance in class activities my become poor, their grades can begin to fail, and they may even begin to have suicidal thoughts. Having a therapy dog is a great way of reducing the anxieties many young people face in school.
Despite the above benefits, some schools have decided against the use of therapy dogs because of perceived risks. Some worry about the temperament of these dogs as they work with students while others are concerned about the sanitation of therapy dogs. These are genuine reasons. However, dogs and their owners are carefully selected. They pass through a strict testing regime before they can be accepted as therapy dogs.
A major reason why some schools haven’t adopted the use of therapy dogs could be because they haven’t researched the benefits of therapy dogs in schools. Therapy dogs aren’t the only ones that can provide support to people with anxieties. Emotional support dogs are also effective in providing comfort to their owners as shown in this article.