The use of animals, particularly dogs, in an educational setting is a trend we have seen grow in popularity in the UK in recent years.
We are frequently contacted by schools wishing to integrate a dog into their school environment and they come to us, as the UK’s leading canine welfare charity, for advice and guidance about how best to do this.
Below are a few key points for consideration and some of the main areas of concern we are keen to highlight in the interests of the happiness and well-being of all participants involved, both human and canine alike.
A research-based approach is of paramount importance to us when it comes to supporting our policy and stance on all areas of dog welfare, and we understand that the physiological, social, emotional, and physical benefits to children are widely recognised (Friesen 2009), but there exists a significant lack of research into the benefits and enjoyment these interventions bring to the dogs and animals involved.
The overarching concerns are around the safety of the children, and the well-being of the dog(s).
Dog bites are common amongst young children but can be prevented with age-appropriate lessons that focus on appropriate human behaviour, as well as:
- Harnessing empathetic and compassionate attitudes towards a dog’s needs
- Learning to safely and respectfully interact with a dog in a quiet and gentle manner
- Understanding when and how it is appropriate to approach a dog
- Learning how to play fairly
- Knowing how to act if afraid of a dog
These are all important lessons for children to learn prior to introducing a dog into the school or therapeutic context (Friesen 2009).
We are keen to encourage schools to thoroughly explore all potential implications before committing to dog ownership for this purpose.
Due to the number of queries we receive, and in light of the concerns we have around this growing trend, we have created a comprehensive guidance document for schools and other establishments who are exploring this option, to ensure this is a viable, compassionate, and responsible decision. Please download here.
For more information and advice and to find out more about our education programme in schools please contact [email protected]