Buddy, our School Dog
In February 2019, the Governors agreed that it would be a good idea for South Petherwin School to have a ‘School Dog’. Since then, lots of planning, research and risk assessments have taken place and Buddy joined us in September 2019.
Prior to purchasing the puppy, Ms Mills checked a number of breeders. The top priority for the puppy was to ensure that the temperament of the parents was suitable for interaction with children and that they had been health checked. The breeder that was selected was 'Leotroy' (all the way in Sussex!) who is accredited with the Kennel Club. The journey was well worth it and Lisa and Graham Bartholomew have bred a gorgeous dog.
What breed of dog is Buddy?
Buddy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a pedigree breed specially chosen because they are renowned for being loving dogs that are excellent with children. Furthermore, Cavaliers respond very well to training. When Buddy is 9 months old he will be able to train to be a pet therapy dog but in the meantime he is having one to one training with a registered dog trainer who has an MSc in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling.
Why have a school dog?
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 and having a dog in school can encourage reluctant children to come to school. Buddy is gentle and loving, and offers children opportunities to improve their 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.
How does a dog help children to read?
Dogs give unconditional acceptance, as they are non-judgmental, which is especially crucial to struggling, emerging readers. The dogs also provide confidence to children as they do not make fun of them when they read, but above all they make amazing listeners, providing the children with a sense of comfort and love. Research has proved that students who read to dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition, a higher desire to read and write, and an increase in intra and interpersonal skills among the children they mix with.
Is there a risk in bringing a dog into a school environment?
Yes there is, though there are a variety of accidents which can happen within the school which far exceed the number of incidents caused by a dog. The risk assessment for Buddy will be reviewed regularly and the impact of a school dog will be evaluated by the governors.
If you do not want your child to interact with Buddy, please put this in writing. It is particularly important if you could inform us if your child has a dog allergy.
In the early days, it is probable that Buddy will spend his time acclimatising to the hustle and bustle of school life being introduced gradually to the children. At no time will children be forced to interact with Buddy or Buddy forced to interact with the children.