Wellbeing dogs Link and Vinnie come to school under the supervision of owners Principal, Suzanne Prendergast (Link) and P-2 Assistant Principal, Ben Raidme (Vinnie).
The role of the wellbeing dogs at Bellaire Primary School is to react and respond to our students and their environment, under the guidance and direction of their owners and other Bellaire Primary School Staff working as their handlers. Link and Vinnie are being trained to work at Bellaire Primary School to support students with social and emotional learning needs. For example, an individual might be encourage to gently pat or talk to the dogs to teach sensitive touch and help them be calm.
We look forward to Link and Vinnie completing their Therapy Dog training in 2022.
A recent report highlighted students working with therapy dogs experienced increased motivation for learning, resulting in improved outcomes. Research into the effects of therapy dogs in schools is showing a range of benefits including:
Increase school attendance
Gains in confidence
decreases in learner anxiety behaviours resulting in improved learning outcomes, such as increases in reading and writing levels
positive changes towards learning and improved motivation, and
enhanced relationships with peers and teachers due to experiencing trust and unconditional love from a therapy dog. This in turn helps students learn how to express their feelings and enter into more trusting relationships.
The following rules are enforced when Link and Vinnie are working at school:
If Link and Vinnie are present in a learning space or the playground with their owner or another Bellaire Primary School staff member they are officially working. They are available for pats and cuddles, but we try to limit this to two children at a time and only under our supervision.
If Link or Vinnie is working with a Bellaire Primary School staff member who is supporting an individual student or small group of students, then other students must adhere to the ‘no touch, no talking’ with the dogs both in the playground and when they enter the classroom.
Rest areas have been set up for Link and Vinnie in the School Office so they can have some time out – the concentration they need when they are working means they get quite fatigued and need a rest!
The dogs need a number of ‘second handlers’ (older students and staff) who understand the basic commands and can take the dogs from their primary handler if required.