There are many benefits to having a therapy dog in a school setting, the main one being the wellbeing of the school community. This year, we have introduced three trained and certified therapy dogs to the St John’s family, with the main aim of providing support and comfort to our pupils and staff.
According to a 2019 National Institute of Health study, and other recent studies the presence of a dog in a school setting can help promote a positive mood, reduce anxiety, improve learning and enhance motivation.
All three of our therapy dogs have been trained to be patient, disciplined and good-natured to provide companionship and support. Training for our therapy dogs includes ensuring that they are able to accept being stroked and handled and are not overly worried about having their paws, ears, or tail handled by somebody new. During the assessment, an assessor will check that the dog’s nails are trimmed short and that they can take a food treat gently without snatching. The assessment also ensures that they respond and recover appropriately to a sudden noise or disturbance, as they will encounter lots of new and unexpected stimuli in their role. Our four-legged furry friends love human contact, and our community also greatly benefit from their calming effect.
Ottie, Reggie, and Woody are already much-loved members of the St John’s family, and you can read more about each of them below.
Ottie (short for ‘spotty’!) is a two year old, liver and white coloured English Springer Spaniel belonging to Director of Rugby, Mr St John. She visits twice a week and she is often found out and about on the fields or by the astro pitches at break and lunchtimes saying hello to pupils, greeting them with a waggly tail. She particularly loves the Lower School who like to make a fuss of her!
As a working breed, Ottie is intelligent, and highly driven. She is super energetic and loves keeping active and getting out for walks. Equally, she loves affection, whether a lean against your leg, a belly tickle or a cuddle. Ottie also loves brain training, which includes lots of sniffing to find things, breaking into egg cartons or loo rolls stuffed with wrapping cardboard to find treats, and she also loves playing with tennis balls, and Mr St John thinks she would make a great flanker on the rugby pitch.
Reggie is a golden Cocker-Spaniel, and third ‘child’ to Mr White, Deputy Head (Logistic & Co-curricular) who visits us up to three days a week. Pupils can book in to spend some time with Reggie to stroke and cuddle him or just play ball with him.
Reggie is caring, affectionate, fun as well as soft and fluffy! He loves nothing more than meeting new people and proudly wearing his yellow ‘Pets as Therapy’ bandana. Spaniels are renowned for their great noses, which is why the police often use them as sniffer dogs; he is an inquisitive dog who loves sniffing around searching for things and loves to play hide and seek for treats.
Woody is a Hungarian Vizsla, belonging to Head of Lower School, Mr Harvey. He visits St John’s three days a week. Pupils can book in to spend time with him, and love to drop in to see him in the Lower School.
Woody is energetic, loyal and he is well known for his cheeky sense of humour. He likes to drink from puddles, and chase tennis balls and encourage Mr Harvey to run faster during cani-cross! He loves being able to spend time in Lower School, and seeing pupils around the site.
Woody helped calm my nerves before my history examination, letting me pet him took my mind off all of the worry I had.Lower School pupil
Woody is always so happy when I see him, and the time we spend together is always really enjoyable.Lower School pupil