This is Finlay, our School Dog. He started school with the approval of school
governors in September 2020 and is a new member of staff at Anns Grove. Finlay is
a cockapoo and was born on 11 th June 2020. He belongs to our Head teacher, Mrs
Fearnehough and there is no cost to school. Finlay was chosen as cockapoos are
known for their friendly temperament and low allergy coat. Finlay is registered with a
vet and is up to date with his vaccinations and worm and flea treatments.
At Anns Grove, we are always looking for innovative ways to improve our school,
and after a lot of research into school dogs and speaking to other Headteachers, we
are delighted to have Finlay in our school for the benefit and well-being of children
and staff. Finlay’s welfare will also be paramount and he will only be in school from
Monday to Wednesday. He will have lots of breaks and a quiet place to sleep and
rest in Mrs Fearnehough’s office. Finlay will toilet away from children in the staff
garden area and will be introduced to the school environment and the children
gradually. Finlay will train to be a therapy dog and in time will work with children from
across the school if they wish to.
He will undergo thorough and rigorous training, beginning with puppy classes in
September. Finlay will be assessed by a Pets as Therapy Assessor in the coming
months and gain accreditation as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog. Whilst Finlay is in
school he will have access to a dog crate in the offices where he can ‘chill out’ during
the day! This is where he will spend most of his time initially.
Why have we got 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 will learn the principles of
good pet ownership and be taught how to interact safely and responsibly.
Numerous research studies have shown the benefits of dogs in schools.
Therapy dogs have been working in schools across the UK for the past 5
years. Evidence indicates that areas of potential benefits include:
Cognitive development – companionship with a dog stimulates memory,
problem-solving, game-playing and can improve reading skills.
Emotional development – a school dog improves self-esteem, acceptance
from others and lifts mood, often provoking laughter and fun. Dogs can also
teach compassion and respect for other living things as well as relieving
Physical development – interaction with a pet reduces blood pressure,
provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to
move, walk and stimulates the senses.
Environmental benefits – a dog in a school contributes towards the creation
of a home style environment, with all of the above benefits continuing long
after the school day is over.
Social benefits – a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion,
encourages responsibility, wellbeing, developing social skills and focused
interaction with others.
Not all children will want to work with Finlay and that is absolutely fine. He will always
be on a lead in school and with an adult, usually Mrs Fearnehough. Finlay is insured
with The Dogs Trust and there is a full risk assessment in place. This risk
assessment and the impact of having a school dog will be evaluated by the
Governing Board and Senior Leadership Team at regular intervals.
What will Finlay the school dog do on a day-to-day basis?
Initially, Finlay will have minimal contact with the children and staff, until he becomes familiar with the school. All children will have the opportunity over time to have quality time with the dog and learn how to care for him. He will also be available to calm unsettled children, meet and greet in the mornings and walk around the school on a lead with the Headteacher or a member of staff at appropriate times of the day so that he isn’t a distraction to children’s learning. He will attend classes to support their learning where appropriate and in the future will be trained to sit and listen to children read.
Safety around the dog
A detailed risk assessment is in place.
Insurance with The Dogs Trust will cover having a dog on site.
If the Headteacher is at a meeting, there will be a number of designated staff who have agreed to have responsibility to support the dog in her absence or he will not attend school during that time.
Children will only have contact with the dog with a supervised adult and if they wish to. When moving around the school, the dog will always be on a lead.
Children will receive training to teach them how to behave safely around a dog.
The dog will be based in the Head’s or the main office.
What about the children who have allergies around a dog?
After extensive research, one of the best breeds of dog to combat allergies is a breed which is mixed with a poodle. Finlay is a Cockapoo, a Spaniel and Poodle mix which makes him hypoallergenic. It also makes him very sociable, well-tempered and clever. In this way, we will aim to cater for all children to be able to have contact with the dog. Please let school know if your child is allergic and we will ensure that there is no contact with Finlay.
What about the children/ staff who have a fear for dogs?
One of the aims of introducing a dog into the school is to reduce the number of children who have a fear of dogs by teaching them how to care for and behave safely around them. If a child has a fear of dogs we want to slowly build up their confidence so that they feel safe.
Some children may have had upsetting experiences and may have a fear of dogs (or another animal). Finlay will only be in contact with children who want to work with him or meet him. Finlay’s training will help him to be calm and gentle around children. Experience and research have shown that, with proper guidance and handling, children can learn to overcome their fear of animals and grow in respect and appreciation for them
Health and well-being of the dog.
Finlay will receive all vaccinations, be wormed, groomed and cared for.
The Head (the owner of the dog) will have pet insurance to insure if he is ill the dog will receive immediate medical attention.
There will be a designated area for the dog to toilet in the staff garden area which is inaccessible to children. Children will never be involved in toileting the dog.
If children have stroked Finlay they will be taught to wash their hands afterwards.
What happens if the dog is ill?
If Finlay is ill he will not attend school and will be cared for at home until he is fit to return to school.
Please do not hesitate to contact school if you have any questions that have not been covered here.
What has Finlay been up to?
On Wednesday 14th October Finlay visited Heeley Parish Church with the children from years 1 and 2. We went to have a look at all the revonations which have taken place over the last few months. Thank you for letting Finlay and the children visit.