School Support Dog Programme
In 2022 we began our School Support Dog pilot programme. We placed 3 dogs between primary and secondary schools. The dogs have consistently demonstrated positive impacts for students and teachers within the schools, so we are pleased to be able to continue with this programme.
Our dogs are originally trained as Assistance dogs but due to numerous reasons like health issues, uncomfortable wearing a working jacket, and high level of distractions our dogs may not be suitable to continue with their training but could make the perfect School Dog.
It is important to note, the School Support Dogs do not have the same public access rights as Assistance Dogs. So therefore cannot be brought into shops, buses, etc.
Our School Support Dog will have been chosen for its gentle nature. They will have all their obedience training completed, will be well socialised around school environments and introduced to children.
Like all our dogs you will need to continue with its training throughout its working life.
There are many benefits of having a Support Dog in your school, including:
- Improved attendance and improved student engagement: students more willing to participate in the classroom.
- A calming effect on students, particularly those with behavioural or learning difficulties - significant reduction in stress levels.
- Improved social interaction: students are happy to participate and interact within groups they normally wouldn't as they have a shared interest.
- Motivates students to think and to learn about dogs, how to behave appropriately around them.
- A support to students by being present- there is no pressure on students to speak back, no requirement for eye contact when interacting with the dog, so students are at ease.
- Raising awareness of Autism: makes students more accepting of those with additional needs.
- Shows the community that you are an inclusive school.
School Support Dogs in the school
The School Support Dog will work alongside the designated teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s). The dog will initially start coming to school 3 days a week but can be increased to 5 days a week once the dog has settled and is comfortable. The dog will have its own timetable and depending on a primary or secondary school will move to different classes if required.
Two to three handlers including yourself must be chosen in the school to help out with the dog during the day.
All handlers will be trained in positive reinforcement dog handling as well as being given a talk on signs of stress in a dog and how to handle it correctly.
What is expected of the school?
- The board of management within the facility needs to have full knowledge of your application form for a dog in the school.
- The dog will have to be put on the school’s public liability insurance.
- Designated area to be sought on the school grounds for the dog to spend (toilet).
- Suitable place in the school for the dog to have timeout/ safe space.
- Students with allergies or fear of dogs to be considered.
- Designated handlers and the main career of the dog will need time out from their working role while training is taking place.
- Consider who will cover the costs of having a dog in the school? e.g. food, pet insurance, vet fees.
What is expected of the applicant/main carer of the dog?
The same criterias for a Buddy Dog must be met, these include:
- The dog must live indoors all the time. They are brought up to be with people and are not used to being left outside.
- The dog cannot be left at home on its own for long periods – no more than 3 hours. - You must have an enclosed, dog proof garden.
- You must exercise the dog appropriate for its size and needs.
The main career/rehomer is responsible for the health and welfare of the School Support Dog. You must ensure that the dog is up to date with vaccinations and that they are well rested, and cared for during and after the school day. You will also need a plan in place if the dog is unwell and unable to come to school. Who will take care of the dog at home?
The main carer/rehomer must have a permanent position in the school
These highly trained and effective dogs cost €15,000 for training and maintenance. While the cost is significant, the benefits of School Support Dogs are immeasurable. In order to ensure that Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland is able to continue to provide these special animals to schools across the country, we ask that beneficiary schools actively support this critical programme by hosting at least TWO fundraising events per year for the working life of the School Support Dog. Without this support, our programme would not be sustainable.
Please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.