By: Jocelyn Schwalm
There is a laundry list of the positive benefits to being around man’s best friend, and the foundation “The Good Dog” is looking to provide them. The service offers therapy dogs for education, health care, research and disaster response, with all the dogs possessing therapy certification.
As this innovative idea gains popularity, the benefits of integrating canines into classrooms seems like a foolproof idea. Lawrence High School in Kansas, Texas has been praised for leading the pack by incorporating our four-legged friends into students’ learning experiences. The school therapy dog, a 6-year old golden retriever named Roxy, is a staple in the English department. She is described by her owner Keri Lauxman, an English teacher, as a “need-seeking missile.” She is able to sense those in the classroom who need her attention and immediately rushes to find them.
Not only are these dogs soothing emotional needs, but they are able to ease children into reading for an audience. A group of parents in Brooklyn have taken advantage of the calm-natured pups for their children, in order to practice reading skills.
While many children lack the confidence to read in front of their class or even their teacher, the dogs provide a judgment-free zone for progress to be made. A study found that around 70% of children are likely to confide in animals. This is also the reason that dogs provide such great emotional and physiological support to students. These therapy dogs are a great resource to have for children who are afraid to open up in therapy, have emotional problems in their life or mental illness.
Therapy dogs can be used in schools to deliver bad news to the students, to lessen the blow of bad news, and for some, they can provide somewhat of an anchor amid chaos in their lives. These animals even provide social support for the students who suffer from test anxiety. The dogs have been proven to reduce stress and blood pressure. According to researchers, the physiological benefits aren’t purely derived from touching the animals. These benefits appear to arrive even from the sole presence of dogs without any element of touch. The dogs provide a sense of calm to children diagnosed with autism, who lack the stability required to calm themselves down in situations of overwhelming stimuli.
The dogs provide an uncanny ability of supporting students before the students even know that they themselves require this support. With large amounts of school pressures weighing heavily on their shoulder, the pure soul of a canine companion could provide students with enough unconditional love and support to get through another “ruff” day.