Therapy dogs are a hot topic in the world of education. Many schools have them now and others are curious if it is something which would help their students. When determining what to do, it is important to factor in a lot of things. As with other forms of therapy and services, there are pros and cons to these canine companions. Being able to research both sides and knowing possible outcomes will help with the process.
Possible Issues with Therapy Dogs
It’s hard to believe that some people may not support therapy dogs in schools. The fact is that some people not be for them. Why? They have their reasons for their belief. One big concern is the cost of the therapy dog. There is training needed for the human who will be with the pup. In addition to this, the dog needs to be fed, housed, and kept healthy. All of this maintenance needs to be considered when taking on this big responsibility.
Dogs are also not for everyone. You need to consider people who have severe canine allergies. How will this be addressed if a child or faculty member is allergic? Another concern is fear of dogs. There are many people who are very afraid of dogs. Bringing them into the classroom and school as a whole may be more alarming to them. Rather than assisting them, it will increase their anxiety.
One other item which needs to be considered is liability. As good mannered and sweet as a therapy dog may be, they are an animal. Something could trigger them and they could snap. How will this be addressed in the case of an incident and does insurance at school allow them?
Positive Outcomes with Therapy Dogs
On the flip side, research has shown a lot of positive benefits of using therapy dogs in schools. Therapy dogs help to calm students who are anxious and crying. They increase the overall morale of the building. In addition to this, research shows that they decrease blood pressure, increase dopamine and serotonin levels, assist in social skill building, and boosting self-confidence in reading.
When a child is upset, the presence of the therapy dog may help them to refocus and settle. If they are really upset, therapists can take them for a walk to talk. This may allow them to return in a calm way to get back to work. In general, therapy dogs have been shown to decrease the feelings of self-doubt that some children may have. They feel more able to do things, are willing to take risks for the dogs, and are genuinely calmer during tests.
Do you have a therapy dog at your school? Please share how your school worked on making this very big decision. Be sure to include any resources which were invaluable in our comments section below.