I wanted to write about my beautiful dog and now education dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Tigger. There is a photo of her in the Hackney Gazette when she was in the dog pound over Christmas 2014 aged around 6 to 7 years old. She had previously been abandoned in a flat and clearly hadn’t been well looked after at all. She came into the pound rather scared and with a big cut on her nose. As you can see from the picture below, she certainly needed and deserved a lot of care and love. I knew I wanted to rescue her and give her a second chance in life but never envisaged her being used as an education dog for Dogs Trust.
Tigger started working in North London schools in September 2015. Once I could see how friendly and gentle she is despite what she had been through, I knew she would be perfect assistant in schools across North London. She really has done some incredible work and her patience and kindness around children is amazing. Not only does her work take her around schools but she has visited young offender institutes, secure units, pupil referral units, community centres, parks, libraries and much more. She has an incredibly varied diary and never a dull day! Although our programme doesn’t require a dog to be used, l think Tigger has added a lot of value to our workshops across inner city schools. She has helped those that aren’t so confident around dogs or have less experience with dogs, create a positive connection. The fact she has been rescued and now doing such great work additionally celebrates the idea of how great rescuing a dog can be for those that previously hadn’t thought about it.
She also helps to dispel any myths around the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed which have struggled over the years with their reputation. Through teaching children the ‘three steps’ on how to approach dogs correctly, children have had a chance to stroke Tigger in a safe manner which will ensure that dogs in the community are approached in the right way. We have also done positive training with Tigger which has proved really valuable, especially for young people who may have more responsibility over their dogs or who are thinking about getting a dog themselves. Training dogs in a positive way will ensure they will learn better in an encouraging environment and allow owners to form a strong bond with their dog. We also teach children and young people the importance of enrichment and providing dogs with mental stimulation to keep their brain occupied, this in turn can elimate distructive behaviours and boredom. Children can relate to this as they understand that they need entertainment and things to do or they too will get bored! When Tigger needs a rest or is having a bone to keep her occupied, the children don’t ever approach her as it’s crucial for them to learn not to disturb or go up to dogs in these situations and respect their boundaries and personal space.
Tigger has been visiting schools for over three years and has seen nearly 40,000 children and visited over 150 schools. Next year she will do less visits with me but will come out on occasions. It’s important I respect her needs and understand that now she is older, she requires more rest and time out. I think we have a lot to learn from dogs like Tigger and I know her story has inspired a lot of teachers and students across schools. Let’s hope all dogs can have a future like Tigger that they all deserve!