At Lakeside’s four schools we are very engaged in helping students regulate their brains as a way to help them control their emotional responses and be better able to learn. Several years ago we began to bring facility dogs into our schools to provide emotional support to our students. The results have been amazing. In fact, some of our students are more respectful of our dogs than they are of anyone else. They really have become attached to the extent that we have purchased seven trained dogs for our schools. Now it is not unusual for a student to ask to have a dog with them when they are feeling anxious or stressed.
This trend is becoming more popular in schools and therapeutic environments. New York City has a Department of Education’s Comfort Dog Program that brings dogs into schools when students are stressed. This has been written about on the Edutopia website by Jesse Pachter.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
As an assistant principal and athletic director, I have seen firsthand how a comfort dog changes the lives of both students and faculty when Eli, a 4-year-old rescue border collie mix, joined our staff. As part of the New York City Department of Education’s Comfort Dog Program, Eli and his owner, who is also our school social worker, collaborate as a certified therapy dog team. The pair are responsible for fostering a supportive and welcoming environment for students as they return to the school building.
Considering that our students have been out of school for 18 months due to the pandemic, providing additional support is vital to helping them transition back into the school building and daily school life. There are three ways that having a comfort dog has helped our students and faculty.
The article goes on to talk about how having comfort dogs builds confidence in students, are a rapport accelerator and a morale booster. These are all so helpful in helping students cope with the stressors they face in school. It encourages schools to consider bringing comfort dogs to their schools to reset the environment to be safe and regulating.
Here is the link to this article. This is just another validation of what we already know about the needs of students. They are under significant stress and need the regulation that the intervention of dogs can bring. Comfort dogs are a way to improve our school environments so that students can be more regulated and learn more effectively. We have seen that reality at Lakeside!