Posted Date: 12/07/2018
COPPERAS COVE, TX (December 5, 2018)—Therapy dogs have been called “miracle workers” because of their calming effect on students in the classroom. Bella, a four year old registered therapy dog at Clements/Parsons Elementary, is contributing to a positive climate of social and emotional learning.
Bella, a Golden Retriever, visits on Fridays and works with students in small groups and through individual counseling. Bella is helping to build student confidence, assist with student emotional regulation, and a providing comfortable setting.
Students are allowed to spend individual time with Bella in exchange for making positive behavior choices. In Bella’s three visits to the school, and she has already had more than 20 visits with students.
“I got to walk Bella. She’s a very calm dog. She lets you pet her,” third grader Samantha Moore said. “I’m not afraid of her. I like her at our school.”
Bella has helped behaviorally challenged students by increasing self-esteem, socialization, and problem-solving skills simply with her calming presence, gentle interaction, and the opportunity to interact with her on an individual basis earned with good behavior.
“I think Bella is a cute dog and she’s very gentle. She listens to you whenever you talk,” said third grader Katelynn Burann “If you play with a stuffed animal with her, she’ll play tug of war with you. She lets me pet her and she doesn’t growl.”
Students have learned school-wide rules and expectations on how to interact with Bella. No student is obligated to interact with Bella, and a letter went home to all parents allowing them to opt out their child from interactions with Bella. The school has no parents or students who have opted out.
“It was cool that Bella was in my class,” second grader Andre Peyton said. “I petted Bella.”
Therapy dogs have been active in schools for the last few years. Bella was introduced to Clements/Parsons Elementary in November. Williams/Ledger Elementary got its therapy dog, Ayala, during the 2017-2018 school year.
According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the benefits of having therapy dogs in the classroom are numerous.
Physical benefits. Interaction with therapy dogs has been shown to reduce blood pressure, provide physical stimulation and assist with pain management.
Social benefits. A visiting therapy dog promotes greater self-esteem and focused interaction with other students and teachers.
Cognitive benefits. It has been empirically proven that therapy dogs stimulate memory and problem-solving skills.
Emotional and mental health benefits. A recent national survey of adolescent mental health found that about 8 to 10 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 18 have an anxiety disorder. A therapy dog can lift moods in the classroom, often provoking laughter. The therapy dog is also there to offer friendship and a shoulder to lean on for students.