School Dog - Rua
This is Rua, our School Dog. He started school in January 2019 and is a regular visitor to classrooms, the children help to walk him at lunchtimes.
He is a valued addition to our St Teresa’s family. Our aim is for all children to be able to spend quality time with him, if they wish. At St Teresa’s, we are always looking at innovative ways to improve our school, and after a lot of research into school dogs and speaking to other Headteachers, we are delighted to be the first school in Harrow to have one.
The children have taken part in workshops and assemblies run by the Dogs Trust and we also plan to have the Blue Cross in school for more training. We learn how to care for dogs and read their behaviour.
Why did we get a School Dog?
The value of pet therapy is widely accepted as a powerful aid to communication and motivation. Research has shown that companion dogs can improve the well-being of children reducing their anxiety levels by making the school environment happier and a more enjoyable place to be. Dogs are a great comfort to children who are upset in any way and in need of calm, consolation, comfort, breathing space or a distraction before being able to tell an adult what has upset them. Children can benefit educationally and emotionally; a dog can motivate and encourage their participation, increase their understanding of responsibility, develop empathy and nurturing skills and improve their behaviour and self-esteem. Children cannot fail in any way in their relationship with a dog; they do not judge or condemn and offer unconditional affection. Children will learn the principles of good pet ownership and be taught how to handle dogs safely and responsibly; they take great enjoyment from interaction with the dog.
The Leadership Team of St Teresa’s considered the options regarding the possibility of a dog as a school pet in the Autumn term 2018. Over a period of several months following this discussion and research, the final decision was taken to introduce a dog to school in January 2019.
The rationale to make the decision to have a school dog was as follows:
- For the school to have a dog that is able to live as naturally as conditions allow
- For the dog to be properly cared for
- To have a dog that the children could learn how to care for, interact safely around and also benefit their social and emotional development
Rua is the Headteacher’s dog. He lives with Mrs Thornton in her home at her own expense and will be introduced to the school environment and the children gradually. A vet has thoroughly checked him for any illnesses and was responsible for his initial vaccination programme. There are no diseases that could be caught from the dog as he is kept up-to-date with immunisations including rabies, and his worming treatment is in line with European vet guidelines. A register of his annual health check is kept both by Mrs Thornton and the vets’ surgery.
It is accepted that interacting with animals is not appropriate for all children but that for some it has the potential to provide many positive benefits. Any parent who does not wish their child to interact with the dog is invited to write to inform Mrs Thornton of their wishes. This risk assessment will be reviewed annually and the impact of a school dog will be evaluated by the Governing Board and Senior Leadership Team.
Children from Year 3 – Year 6 are invited to help walk Rua at lunchtime.