This site is being created as a place to network and share information about Therapy and Facility Dogs that work in schools. I am a school counselor in a small elementary school in Loveland, Colorado. I have been working with Copper, my registered Therapy and Facility Dog, in my school since October 2011. During that time, I’ve been able to document the positive motivational power of having a dog in school. Working with a dog in school has numerous applications and reaches an extremely diverse group of students.
My experience with Animal Assisted Therapy started in 2009 when I partnered with Colorado State University and HABIC (Human Animal Bond in Colorado) in a graduate level research project. We had one HABIC team work with a student. That student blossomed and I was convinced that I needed to learn more. I spent a significant portion of time on the internet and decided to adopt a dog that could potentially come to work at school. It was 18 months later that Copper first entered our building. I hope the information on this site shortens the entry time for other professionals interested in this modality and provides best practices to those of use who are breaking ground with our own programs.
Please consider becoming a member so we can share the best of what we use and build a foundation for numerous successful programs in our schools.
A Dog in School?
I’ve had people respond to this question in several different ways. There has been the enthusiastic crowd who is excited at the possibility of having a dog in the school. There is the cautious group that is concerned about allergies, insurance and injuries. The skeptics respond with a look that says, You just want to bring your dog to school with you, don’t you? The fearful give you a pleading look and wide eyes. There is a substantial amount of work and knowledge that needs to be in place before bringing a dog into a school. This website is dedicated to providing a foundation for professionals who want to start their own programs and a place for established programs to share best practices and the tried and true tools that support that work.
There are a few different models that are used when having a dog work in a school setting. The majority of this website was built using the model where the school professional is also the handler and the animal works primarily out of the same building. In this case, Copper is dual certified as both a therapy and facility dog. He has additional training that is specific to working in a public school. He works at the school 3 days a week. I like this model because I can educate all the people in the building about behavior expectations when Copper is working. I also know the students that Copper works with. There is more information about this under the How to Get Started tab.
Another option is to have a certified team of handler and dog, work with the school professional and the student(s). In this model, the dog and handler typically come to the school as volunteers to work with a specific student under the guidance of a school professional. After that session they leave the building. The dog and handler may work at several sites in a typical week of volunteering.