Children can benefit educationally and emotionally, increase their understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills through contact with a dog. In addition to these benefits, children take great enjoyment from interaction with a dog. The value of a school dog is widely accepted as a powerful aid to stimulation. Communication studies have shown that the presence of companion animals can improve the wellbeing of children and adults, lowering the rate of anxiety, simply by making the environment happier and more enjoyable. This policy is designed to set out to children, staff, parents, carers and visitors the reasons for having a school dog at Lady Joanna (Endowed) Primary School and the rules and responsibilities to ensure the safety of all on site including the school dogs. Although there is a risk in bringing a dog into a school environment, this can be mitigated against with a robust risk assessment to ensure the safety of all.
We have consulted the school community and we have agreed that having a school dog would be a positive contribution to our school community. One of our school dogs, Wolfie, is owned by Mrs Foster, Headteacher. Wolfie is a Cavapoochon and he has a mild temperament and non-moulting coat. Mrs Foster will be responsible for Wolfie’s regular visits to the vets, injections and inoculations. The second school dog, Maddie, is owned by Mr Nettleship, Site Manager. Maddie is a cocker spaniel and has already been a school dog at his previous school. Mr Nettleship will be responsible for Maddie’s visits to the vets, injections and inoculations. All other dogs must not come on site unless they are a known therapy or assistance dog and the Headteacher has approved their presence prior to the visit.
School Dog Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Q Who is the legal owner of the dog and who pays for its costs?
- A The legal owner of the dog is the Headteacher and the Site manager; she/he will bear the costs associated with owning the dog; the school budget will support insurance and staff training costs where appropriate.
- Q Is the dog from a reputable breeder?
- A Yes. The dog is from a home where both parents were seen and has been specifically chosen for its temperament.
- Q Will the dog be a distraction?
- A The dog(s) will be kept in the office area/site-manager’s hut. Both areas are separate from the classrooms / playground area to ensure it only comes into contact with children who are happy to have contact and have parental permission for this, under strict supervision. The dog will also have a space to spend time in classrooms, the library and in the outdoor areas where children can interact safely. The dog will also attend meetings with staff to support further socialisation, following consultation with staff beforehand.
- Q Has a risk assessment been undertaken?
- A Yes, we have carefully considered having a dog in school and sought advice from many sources, including other schools that successfully have a school dog and a reputable dog behaviourist.
- Q Who is responsible for training?
- A The dog owner will be the legal owner of the dog and as a result, will be responsible for its training. Appropriate training will be obtained, and the dog will work towards being trained as a school dog through The Dog Mentor company.
- Q How will the dog be toileted to ensure hygiene for all?
- A In the interest of health and hygiene our school dog will be toileted when taken out for short walks in the grounds. Only staff members will clear this away appropriately leaving no trace on the ground, cleaning the area with disinfectant if needed. Our policy of no other dogs in the playground is still applicable as we are unable to put effective control measures in place that guarantee temperament and safety when children come into unsupervised contact with unknown dogs.
- Q How will the dog’s welfare be considered?
- A The dog will be walked regularly and given free time outside. Parents will be able to give permission in advance to allow their child to be able to walk with a member of staff and the dog during that time. This will also be used as a behaviour reward, in line with our behaviour policy. The dog will be kept in the designated area and will only have planned and supervised contact with children and visitors. The dog will be carefully trained over a period of time and will have unlimited access to food and water. We will work carefully to ensure the dogs’ welfare is always considered.
- Q How will this be managed where children have allergies?
- A We already manage a number of allergies at school, and this will be no different for children and adults that are allergic to dogs. Individual needs will always be met, and we are happy to work with parents to put additional control measures in place for individual allergies.
- Q My child is frightened of dogs; how will you manage this?
- A Access to the dogs is carefully managed and supervised and children do not need to have close contact with it unless permission for this has been given. We hope to work closely with parents of children who are fearful of dogs to alleviate their fear and to teach them how to manage this.