Max – Cross Breed
DHK Puppy in Training
As a Headteacher who firmly believes that there are many different styles of learning. I’m always looking at alternative provision in education and how I can meet the needs of different children. I started hearing about PAT dogs and the work that these dogs do in schools, hospitals, homes and other public places. I became really curious about the benefits that a dog could bring to a school and its community. On a Heads’ residential I started talking to other Heads who had either school dogs or visiting dogs. It was then that I came across DHK, I looked into the Facebook page and DHK website. Dogs Helping Kids is North Devon’s unique charity dedicated to using highly trained dogs to help teach children non-violence, empathy, respect, kindness, love, responsibility, friendship and trust. I took the plunge and emailed Tracey, enquiring on the process and commitment it takes to endeavour on having and training a DHK dog.
The School Dogs are highly trained dogs who are of impeccable temperament, have undergone in-depth positive reinforcement training and who then have been rigorously assessed to clarify that they are competent and safe to work in the school environment. Training for each School Dog Team takes 2 years and each team has to pass 6 assessments. Once Certified, each School Dog Team is annually assessed in their working environment. All D.H.K. School Dogs will be provided with harnesses, leads, collars and identification to prove that they are Certified DHK School Dogs.
I contacted all reputable re-homing centres explaining what I was looking for and why. Duncan from Heavens Gate in Somerset was very keen to help me in my quest to find just the right dog and it wasn’t long before I met Bruce. The centre believed Bruce (now renamed Max) to be an Airedale terrier cross Whippet…Tracey however thinks otherwise and we are looking forward to having his DNA tested. I fell in love with Max straight away and the next couple of weeks felt like torture until I was allowed to pick him up.
I contacted County to discuss what risk assessments I needed to do and also discussed with parents about potential allergies. Over the next few weeks Max visited school at the weekends getting used to my office and looking around the school quietly without the children being present. Now Max is in school for half days. He has passed his initial assessments. Leading up to this we attended Big Dog Little Dog classes with Cheryl Holden. I made it clear to Cheryl what I needed Max to work towards and she tailored our training to meet DHK criteria. Max attended three sets of six classes over the next few months and when we received our entry date 25.1.15 for the DHK entry assessment I was really excited and somewhat nervous!
Thankfully Max passed and we are now a certified fully insured DHK puppy in training preparing for our next assessments .I keep a diary of Max’s time in school and I am looking forward to the next phase of DHK.
The roles of the D.H.K. School Dogs in the educational environment are many. Once Certified Max will have been trained and assessed to be able to provide all of these specially designed roles. However, some of DHK School Dogs will offer all of these roles; some of them will completely specialise in one role only.
These roles consist of the following:-
These dogs will be happy to simply ‘chill out’ in the classroom whilst the children are having their lesson (s). Their very presence will have a calming effect on the children. Research studies in both Britain and America have concluded that having a dog in a school classroom can have many positive benefits – these include help to calm children down, improve academic achievement, motivate those children who are often not that attentive, teach responsibility and encourage children to respect all life. Furthermore it has been shown that when classmates share the affection and care of a ‘class’ dog, a bond forms among the classmates and strengthens their team ethics.
These dogs will be incredibly calm and happy to have an individual child read to them. Dogs give unconditional acceptance, as they are non-judgmental, which is especially crucial to struggling, emerging readers. The listening canines also provide confidence to children as they do not make fun of them when they read, but above all they make amazing listeners, providing the children with a sense of comfort and love. In America, the ‘Read’ Dogs, as they are known, have proved through research that children who read to these dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition, a higher desire to read and write, and an increase in intra and interpersonal skills among the children they mix with.
These dogs will be gentle and loving, but at the same time full of fun and enjoyment for the children. Those children who have performed incredibly well during the week or those who have made progress in a certain subject, or those who have achieved tasks set for them, will be rewarded with spending time during lunch or break to interact with these dogs. Walking, grooming, playing and training are some of the responsibilities the children will be allowed to undertake with the reward dogs. It has been proved that working and playing with a dog improves children’s social skills and self esteem.
These dogs will work with children on a one-one basis and will especially help those children who have been bullied, abused, suffering with emotional issues, going through upsetting/difficult times or even scared/phobic of dogs. These dogs will bring much joy and help to all the children they meet. Children who struggle with social interaction can find a reassuring friend in a canine therapy dog.