Meet Jaxson – Our School Dog (puppy)

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Canine Assisted Intervention

We are very excited to introduce you to a new member of staff who we will be welcoming to Michael Hall School.

Jaxson is a Golden Retriever who will soon be training to become a school dog and is set to become an integral part of our school community.

When all our lives can start to get back to normal, he will begin his first set of puppy classes and in time we plan to train him to become a fully qualified Pet Therapy Dog.

So what does a School Dog do? 

Jaxson will become part of the fabric of daily school life. Once trained, he will participate in classroom activities and work with individual students and groups working on structured and goal-oriented outcomes. 

We will also aim to motivate reluctant learners by introducing ‘Bark and Read’ a scheme where children have the opportunity to read to Jaxson on a regular basis until they become more confident fluid and independent readers. In other schools, this has been very successful, particularly with boys.

We will also organise lunchtime walks for groups of children that for one reason or another struggle socially during more unstructured times of the day. In doing this we hope to provide a platform in which children can discuss issues or problems freely.

What are the benefits of having a school dog?

Numerous research studies have shown the benefits of therapy dogs in schools. Therapy dogs have been working in schools for a number of years across the UK. However, they have been commonplace in schools in the USA and Australia for many years.

Evidence indicates that benefits include:

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

• Social – a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, encourages responsibility, wellbeing and focused interaction with others

• Emotional – a school dog improves self-esteem, acceptance from others and lifts mood, often provoking laughter and fun. Dogs can also teach compassion and respect for other living things as well as relieving anxiety.

• 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

• Environmental – a dog in a school increases the sense of a family environment, with all of the above benefits continuing long after the school day is over.

• Reading – reading to dogs has been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, through both the calming effect the dog’s presence has on children as well as the fact that a dog will listen to children read without being judgemental or critical. This comforting environment helps to nurture children’s enthusiasm for reading and provides them with the confidence to read aloud.

Some concerns you might have

My child is allergic to dogs

It is understandable that some of you may be concerned about possible allergic reactions to a school dog. However, Jaxson will be subjected to the most thorough cleanliness and grooming regime. He will also only be allowed in situations with pupils who voluntarily wish to work with him. Your permission will of course be sought in advance of Jaxson having access to, and working with, your child in school.

Training

Jaxson will undergo thorough and rigorous training (beginning with puppy classes) so he will be extremely well-behaved. We want to do this properly and estimate it will take roughly a year before he will be ready to support the needs of our children, although they will be welcome to join us on walks within the school grounds before this time.

Will Jaxson be properly cared for?

Jaxson will be extremely well looked after. He will live with Ms Phillips and her family and will come to school most days but will stay safely in the offices until satisfactory training has been completed. He will then, in time, listen to pupils read in a controlled setting and will always be accompanied by an adult. Whilst Jaxson is in school, he will have access to a dog crate in the offices where he can relax during the day. This is where he will spend most of his time initially. Jaxson will visit the vet regularly for all his injections as well as regular check-ups. If Jaxson is unwell for any reason he will stay at home with a babysitter!

My child is scared of dogs

Some children may have had upsetting experiences and thus have a fear of dogs (or another animal). Jaxson will only be in contact with children whose parents have given their permission. However, Jaxson’s training will help him to be calm and gentle around children. Experience and research have shown that with proper guidance and handling, children can learn to overcome their fear of animals and grow in respect and appreciation for them.

The school has a ‘no dogs’ policy

Our school does have a ‘no dogs’ policy, however because Jaxson is training to be a Pets As Therapy dog, specific rules will apply to him and him alone. He will be on a lead at all times when moving around the school property and will always be accompanied by an adult. Jaxson will also be fully insured to carry out his role thus allowing him to be on the school site. A School Dog policy will also be written and updated annually.

We hope you will join us in welcoming Jaxson to the Michael Hall School family and embrace all that he has to offer the school. More information about this can be found in the Michael Hall School Dog policy (to follow shortly) and a letter to seek your permission regarding contact with Jaxson will be sent home at the appropriate time before contact with Jaxson occurs in a reading or therapy setting. Although we do not envisage this to be any time before the 2021 summer term, there may be times before then when the dog is introduced to forms or in assemblies without physical contact. If you have any concerns regarding this then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Jacqui Phillips by email: [email protected]