Therapy Dogs

ACE is in the process of implementing a therapy dog program.  We will utilize the dogs to assist students in dealing with transition, anxiety or stressful situations. According to one study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), having a dog present in the classroom promotes a positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body. In fact, the simple act of petting a dog has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Pet therapy also lowers stress hormones, like cortisol, and increases oxytocin. In other words, just being in contact with a therapy dog calms kids down when they’re upset and helps keep their anxiety at bay. And reducing feelings of anxiety and depression enables them to focus on learning.

Shadow is a Black Lab and Evie is a Vizsla. Both dogs have been in classrooms and on campus for the past few months to become accustomed with the school and our students. Once each puppy turns one years old, they will begin training and work towards certification of the AKC Canine Good Citizen. 

Teachers will be able requests the dogs into their classroom to help with test anxiety and other stressful situations that students may face during instructional time.  This may be for a few minutes at the beginning of class or for duration of the class.  Students may also request their use through their school counselor.

While aware of the positive benefits of having dogs on campus, we also recognize that some students may have anxiety towards or fear of dogs.  In addition, we are certain there are some students with allergies that prevent interaction with dogs.  ACE is sensitive to these circumstances. No student is required to participate. Students can tell their teacher, administration or counselor if they do not want the dogs around. The attached Opt Out form has also gone home with all ACE Students.

Therapy Dog Letter.pdf

WHY DOGS AT ACE?

Over the years, numerous research studies have been undertaken to validate the benefits of animal assisted activity and in particular the contribution of therapy dogs. Empirical evidence has shown that therapy dogs can enhance children’s psychological development, improve social skills, and increase self-esteem among other benefits. Dogs can also teach responsibility, compassion, and respect for other living things. Dogs in the classroom can be used to calm fears, relieve anxiety, and teach skills. Here is a summary of potential benefits (Data adapted from the Australian Companion Animal Council):

 • Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses

• Social – a visit with a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, promotes greater self-esteem and well-being, and focused interaction with others

• Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem solving and game playing

• Emotional – an adorable four-legged visitor improves self-esteem, acceptance from others, and lifts mood often provoking laughter

• Environmental – a dog in a facility decreases the feeling of a sterile environment, lifts mood and this continues after visit

Research has demonstrated that therapy dogs properly managed in the school setting can not only make a measurable difference in terms of gaining various skills such as reading enhancement, but also in contributing critically to emotional and relational development. School counselors are finding that the presence of a therapy dog can decrease anxiety and enable students to work through issues such as anger management, bullying tendencies and others psycho/social problems. The introduction of a non-threatening therapy dog can serve as a catalytic vehicle for forming adaptive and satisfactory social interactions. Guided activities and group discussions help teach students how to handle interpersonal conflicts and develop constructive responses.

Dogs in the Classroom Improve SEL, Cognitive, and Even Reading Skills

The Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Classrooms and on College Campuses

Therapy dogs can help reduce student stress, anxiety and improve school attendance

Best (practices) in show: Therapy dogs in schools