Area: West Midlands
I have been deputy head teacher at a primary school for about 8 years. We have always been an animal friendly school and already had chickens and I had always wanted a dog, as I grew up with dogs. My head teacher suggested a school dog, as he had read about a charity in Devon that did specific school dog training. So, I went to Devon for a workshop with them before getting Daisy. I then continued training with them for the first year of Daisy’s life.
I had to consider the type of dog that would suit being in a school but also a dog that would suit my own lifestyle and Daisy was perfect.
Daisy has been in school since the day I picked her up at eight weeks old. Initially she was in a pen and crate in my office and had no contact with children until she was about one, although they did see her around school. She still has my office as her home, and this is where the children come to see her.
We were lucky as a local dog trainer, who has been highly recommended and was also a trainer for the charity we were working with, gave us free training for the first two years, so we did lots of trick training, obedience training, agility sniffer dog training, you name it, as Daisy is highly intelligent and loves to be active. She also loves showing off her tricks to the children and they enjoy getting her to do the tricks which builds their confidence.
Daisy works four days a week and there is a selection of children that come to visit her. These are children who may have emotional issues, some of them have autism as we have an autism unit as well as children with autism in mainstream. For some children it is a behaviour reward, for other children it’s confidence building and for some it’s a chance to read.
We always put Daisy’s welfare first and the time she is with children is limited so that she has time to rest throughout the day. We are incredibly lucky that I have a colleague, Miss Schwartz, who walks Daisy every day for me and also supports with Daisy working with the children.
Daisy is part of the school community and everyone knows her, in fact children from other schools refer to us as ‘the school with the dog’
She comes on the gates with me in the morning and helps encourage those that may not be too keen to come in.
She’s helped lots of children who are scared of dogs not be worried anymore.
Her main work is with children who have anxiety and behavioural problems, and she has had a significant impact on these children. Some children, who would most likely have been excluded from school, have made it through due to seeing Daisy along with a whole host of other interventions as well.
We also did a lot of work around ‘how to speak dog’ so the children at Hollywood know how to approach dogs, they know how to stroke dogs and they also know what to look for in terms of stress in dogs.
Daisy is four years old now and has been an invaluable part of our school, especially throughout lockdown as me and Daisy have worked all the way through the pandemic, as our school was open for key worker children. Many of these children were extremely uncomfortable about coming into school and Daisy really helped. Also, with so few children they could spend more time with her which really made a difference.
We did do a bit of visiting in a care home but found it was very difficult to fit it in at a time that was appropriate for them as I was obviously working all day, so we now just stick with school.
I also work as an assessor for Canine Concern and have assessed many dogs who have come to our school.
Canine Concern Comments
It can be really difficult for many parents, children and teachers who are home schooling once again during lockdown.
Cathy is working away in these difficult times, with Daisy at her side, both looking forward to normality, when Daisy can be with the children once more.
On behalf of our Trustees and staff we all thank you for the excellent work that you and Daisy do at the school.
Daisy, like other dogs within Canine Concern, bring comfort to children at school and also assist with their reading programme.