It’s an understatement to say that the previous year or two has been rough. Isolation, suffering, pain, and uncertainty have all resulted from the epidemic. To feel safe, everyone requires a relationship with others. Connection, love, and a sense of belonging are encoded into our DNA. Therapy dogs have been utilized to help children return to school by providing comfort and support. Therapy dogs have been found in studies to alleviate stress and create a sense of connection in stressful situations. How can you improve your interactions with them at school? Let’s try to figure things out together.
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What Is A Therapy Dog
Therapy dogs are not assistance dogs. Therapy dogs’ job is to react and respond to people and their surroundings under their owner’s guidance and instruction.
Animal-assisted therapy can also include the use of therapy dogs. This seeks to boost a person’s social, cognitive, and emotional abilities. A health care practitioner who utilizes a therapy dog in treatment may be perceived as less intimidating, potentially improving the client-professional relationship. There are also activities, which is a broad word that encompasses a variety of ways animals may aid people. Pet therapy or therapy dogs, for example, can help with emotional or physical mental health and wellness. These activities aren’t always supervised by professionals, and they aren’t always psychological therapies. Therapy dogs, according to research, can help lessen symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety in people who have experienced terrible situations.
Why Do We Need Therapy Dogs In Schools?
The human-animal link has a favorable influence on both people and animals. Therapy dogs have been shown in studies to lower stress physically (cortisol levels) and boost attachment reactions that produce oxytocin, a hormone that increases human trust. Animal-assisted activities are also well received by dogs. When dogs connect with their owners, they create oxytocin and lower their cortisol levels in reaction to the human-animal link. Depending on the circumstances, dogs often feel as though they are at home when participating in animal-assisted activities.
Animal-assisted therapy can teach empathy and acceptable interpersonal skills, support persons in developing social skills, relax, and increase an individual’s ability to pick up social signs crucial to human interactions. Professionals may analyze this data and utilize it to assist clients in understanding how their actions influence others.
Therapy dogs have lately been employed in schools and universities to engage with students. According to a recent study, students who worked with therapy dogs were more motivated to learn, which resulted in better results. Therapy dogs are being used to help youngsters with social and emotional learning difficulties, which can help them improve reading skills. Increased school attendance, gains in confidence, decreases in learner anxiety behaviors resulting in improved learning outcomes, such as increases in early literacy levels, positive changes toward education and improved motivation, and augmented relationships with classmates and teachers due to experiencing trust and unconditional love from a therapy dog, are only a few perks of therapy dogs in schools. As a result, pupils are better able to communicate their emotions and form more trustworthy connections.
Despite these well-documented advantages, many schools opt-out of therapy dog programs owing to perceived hazards. These concerns vary from sanitary problems to the disposition of dogs while dealing with youngsters. However, therapy dogs and their owners are carefully chosen and put through a rigorous testing process before being accepted into any program. The lack of interest has been attributed to the paucity of evidence regarding the advantages of therapy dogs in schools.
How To Interact With A Therapy Dog At School
During activities to do with a dog, activities to do with an aggressive dog, activities to do with an unsocial dog, activities to do with a high energy dog, and activities to do with dogs in the winter, it’s crucial to note that enrolling in a therapy dog training program or getting lessons from Ann is not needed for animals and handlers to become therapy teams. However, because most people find it difficult to set up training sessions that imitate visiting situations on their own, some people prefer to seek assistance. Now we’ll help you learn and practice the skills you’ll need to have a successful visit.
- Creating a safe space
There is a hidden impairment that has an impact on their academic achievement, social interactions, and general well-being. Students may be referred for counseling as a related service when caring, and engaged teachers, counselors, or school psychologists see the need for extra help.
Counseling provides a secure, judgment-free environment for kids to work through tough life experiences and acquire the skills they need to go through school, such as emotional control, self-care to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, and self-confidence. A therapy dog would be ideal in this setting. It is an excellent listener, absolutely nonjudgmental, and instantly makes pupils feel loved and connected.
- Creating Games
Create activities for kids with school therapy dogs. Helping the puppy obey directions like touch, leave it, and turn over is a fun and effective approach to demonstrate and educate children’s distress tolerance, frustration tolerance, impulse control, and verbal and nonverbal communication. The following are some more useful examples:
Students design messages for the pup’s cards based on what has worked for them. This is highly powerful because kids begin to realize that they have influence over their decisions and get enthusiastic about writing messages that may assist another student. “You are loved,” “quiet mind, peaceful body,” “surf the wave,” “follow your dreams rather than squirrels,” “don’t let stuff’ drag you down,” “you matter,” and “half-grin, try it, you’ll enjoy it” are some examples of messages.
Petting or brushing the dog provides pupils with an opportunity to feel proper contact and get and provide the hugs they require. When talking about things that “press their buttons,” playing games with the dog adds a layer of fun to the conversation. It can be not easy to help pupils identify their personal triggers, but the dog lightens the mood by ringing her buzzers whenever squirrels or birds appear on the list of triggers.
- Easing school anxiety
There are many activities to do with therapy dogs. The appearance of the puppy offered a little impetus for an elementary school student who was having trouble coming to school owing to anxiousness. He decided to “attempt” school a couple of days a week after meeting her.
Sessions with the dog helped him deal with his anxiety by teaching him how to manage his symptoms. A puppy on the days in between his encounters with her, messages were left for him as reminders of what he could accomplish. Attendance increased from a few days a week to everyday attendance — and finally, he successfully completed his primary school years.
- Correcting behavioral issues
A fifth-grader found it challenging to perform correctly at school due to the impact of early trauma, a learning handicap, and a mental health diagnosis. Noncompliance, harsh language, abandoning the classroom, and even physical hostility were all symptoms of her emotional baggage. Interactions with the puppy were first tense. When the student entered the room, she often ignored the puppy’s gentle nudges with her nose and wagging tail.
Week after week, the puppy showed up and demonstrated to her that she cared about the pupil and was willing to assist her no matter what. She was finally won over by the puppy’s pure, nonjudgmental affection. The student gained confidence in the counseling job she was conducting. She expressed her concerns, goals, and dreams with the puppy by her side, and she began to love and accept herself.
- Social-Emotional Interventions
The therapy dog team may join the student and school counselor at a predetermined time when a student has a social or emotional counseling goal. A kid with ADHD, for example, benefits from the development of attention and focus abilities. During a team visit, the student and counselor engage in a game in which the student assists the dog in moving about. The school counselor and the dog handler have distinct roles, with the handler coaching the kid on how to interact with the dog so that it can move forward and then stop. On the other hand, the school counselor gives the pupils skills to help them stay focused. While this looks to be a straightforward intervention, the game adds to the intricacy of the everyday attention exercise. The kid takes the school counselor’s directions, but it interacts with the dog using words and hand signs.
- Special Events
There are many ways to stay active with a dog. This approach makes use of one-time events and is a good starting point for school counselors who want to look into regular AAI programming at their school. Volunteer teams come to school with the intent of meeting with a large number of children for a certain goal. They may go to a book fair to encourage students to read or provide opportunities to interact with a team during finals week. This strategy has shown to be quite successful in colleges and universities. Therapy dog sessions on college campuses with a time limit might provide instant stress alleviation for students. School counselors might use this approach to provide a stress release event for students, teachers, and staff during standardized or achievement testing periods.
For activities with dogs’ speech therapy, counseling services may be promoted by therapy dog teams. Students were more likely to seek counseling personnel at one university during a casual meeting with therapy dogs than during groups without dogs. These students stayed longer because of the dog’s presence, which helped them form stronger bonds with the counseling and student services personnel. Similarly, by having therapy dogs present during special programs, school counselors may maximize opportunities to create relationships with children and families. Teams inhabit a certain room or location in the school, and participants choose whether or not to engage with the dogs in this arrangement. The handlers keep an eye on the dogs and teach guests how to engage with them properly. Handlers may also exchange information about their dogs in order to foster further connections.
Handlers may set up a booth or table at events such as health fairs to give information about dogs and their work. Students go to these booths in greater numbers than to other areas of the fair. During these special activities, the school counselor or other school employees may need to keep an eye on teams to ensure that the proper amount of children connect with them.
- Crisis Response
Any crisis response action, such as a student’s death, requires the involvement of school counselors. Having a specialist therapy dog team with crisis response training may give crucial grounding possibilities for persons affected by a crisis; in fact, trusting a dog can feel more natural than trusting a person, especially in times of high stress. Animal-assisted crisis response teams provide comfort, aid in the reduction of acute trauma symptoms, and let people share their feelings. Animals also act as an emotional and psychological buffer for experts giving psychological first aid. The objective of these specialist therapy canine teams is to give comfort and support to those who have been impacted by crises or disasters. All teams have background checks and insurance, and the handlers have additional training in crisis response and a specialist examination for appropriateness in the field. Teams are normally on-site the next day once a call to the organization with a deployment request is made.
These teams are used as part of a larger crisis response strategy, providing a steady, calming presence and unique grounding experiences for kids who have been significantly affected by the occurrence. Petting a dog may be the first step in working over isolation for children who tend to retreat during times of crisis. Because handlers have been trained in crisis intervention, they can identify pupils who may require the assistance of other mental health specialists. As a result, school counselors collaborate with these groups to teach coping, relaxation, and mindfulness techniques while the incident is being processed.
- Achieving Goals
Dogs can also help with mindfulness and grounding exercises to help with a variety of aims, including self-control and empathy development and many other activities with therapy dogs. Counselors ask students what the dog sees and smells and which hair is softer in these circumstances. By laying a hand on the dog’s side and matching breaths, students may concentrate on their breathing. Students can also guess about the dog’s sentiments at any given time and compare and contrast them to their own feelings.
Students who want to improve their self-esteem or impulsivity might learn about dog training and then work with them purposefully. Students are proud to show what they’ve learned to their teachers and peers. Clicker training can be used as an intervention regimen to help with impulsive goals. When students wait until the exact moment when the dog performs the desired behavior, they gain patience. The pupils must then synchronize their motions to click precisely the proper time. Overall, school counselors have a plethora of alternatives for addressing social and emotional needs.
- Clicker Training
With activities with your dog at home, a clicker or marker training is a highly successful way of training that allows us to effectively communicate with the dog about what works and what doesn’t.
Furthermore, rather than pushing your dog, clicker training focuses on motivating him. The majority of us desire to have a loving and respectful connection with our pets. If you’re tired of training techniques that inflict pain on your dog, force your dog to submit, or leave you with a terrified rather than a joyous dog, you’ll love the results you obtain with clicker training. Without sacrificing performance, clicker training improves your bond with your dog.
For therapy dog activities with kids, as you might expect, Clicker training does not include the use of force. This strategy is used to educate marine creatures to do the wonderful things they do in shows because forcing a killer whale to do something is extremely difficult, if not impossible. As a consequence, persons with disabilities may train their dogs without having to position or push them to do so physically. This strategy is particularly well-received by children. We believe that anyone who wants to utilize clicker training effectively may do so.
When you have an active family with dogs, you need to know how to take care of them. Some people don’t even use a clicker, preferring to communicate with a mark in another method! However, having a unique technique of “marking” key behaviors in a way that your dog understands is critical throughout training sessions. This is when a clicker comes in handy. If you cannot use a clicker due to physical limitations, your teacher will help you find a way that is appropriate for both you and your dog. Instructors also educate individuals on how to utilize a tool they always have with them so that even if they don’t have their clicker, they can still use that trainable opportunity to assist their dog in learning. This method can also be used during activities to do with dogs outdoors, activities to do with old dogs, activities to do with dogs inside, bonding activities with your dog, fun activities to do with your dog indoors, and exercise activities to do with your dog.
Schools and colleges are increasingly embracing therapy dog programs as an economical means of providing social and emotional assistance for students, given the influence therapy dogs may have on student well-being. So, if you’re a teacher, get your students a therapy dog, and they’ll adore it because you will find out that there are so many fun activities with our dog!