Should Willow Dene School get a Dog?

We are taking to Twitter to ask our followers whether Willow Dene should explore the idea of getting a school dog, following reports in the media of the benefits and the example set by other schools.

Willow Dene are considering bringing a bespoke, highly trained, temperament tested dog into the school environment to support with well being and to promote independence and care skills.


The benefits of having a therapy dog include:

Developing empathy with another living thing

Providing company which is not communication dependent, non-judgemental and does not create stress or pressure

Therapeutic benefits of being physically close to another living thing i.e. positive effects on heart rate and blood pressure

Increased motivation

To promote wellbeing

Support gains in confidence

Building social skills, relationships and responding to interactions

Opportunities for increased physical activity

Developing greater independence


Here’s a list of questions you might want answered before voting:

Is there a risk in bringing a dog into a school environment?

Yes, there is a risk, although we consider the risk to be low because of the temperament and training of the dog and the control measures that we will put in place to guide its access. The inclusion of a dog would simply be another risk that needs to be managed. A thorough risk assessment and policy for the dog will be in place and will guide the way that the dog is managed.


How will the dog’s welfare be considered?

The dog will be walked regularly and given free time outside. Parents will be able to give

permission to allow their child to be able to walk with a member of staff and the dog

during that time. This will be used to support with mobility, wellbeing and rewards. The

dog will be kept in the office and will only have planned and supervised contact with

children and visitors. The dog will have been carefully trained and will have unlimited

access to water. We will put measures in place to ensure the dog’s welfare is considered carefully and that they are not put into situations that could impact negatively upon their health and wellbeing.


How will the dog be toileted to ensure hygiene for all?

To ensure the health and hygiene of all, our school dog will be toileted when taking for short walks outside the grounds. Only staff members will clear this away appropriately and will clean the area with disinfectant if required.


Our dog will not be allowed to enter the playground during playtimes as an effective control measure cannot be put in place to ensure temperament and safety with large numbers of students in a busy environment.


What if my child has an allergy?

Children will not need to touch the dog, which will relieve the possibility of allergic reactions. We are mindful of allergic reactions within the school already and this would be managed as these other allergies are. Individual needs will always be met, and we will be happy to put additional measures in place for parents of children with individual allergies.


Will the dog be a distraction?

Access to the dog will be timetabled and will act in support of children’s individual learning goals. When the dog is not working with children it will be kept in the office area, inaccessible to children. This will mean that the dog only comes into contact with children who have been allowed permission to interact with them, following parental permission and under strict supervision.


My child is frightened of dogs, how will this be managed at school?

Children will only have access to the dog via approval and consideration from parents and the school. For those children who do have a fear of dogs, careful management of access to the dog may be put in place, alongside parents, to support the child to alleviate their fear and teach them management strategies which will support encounters with other dogs when out in public.


Where will the dog live?

The dog will live with one of our teachers but will come to school each day, providing it is in good health. The dog will spend time at both Swingate Lane and Oakmere Road. When the dog is not timetabled to be with children it will have its own bed in the school office where it will rest.


Once we hear back from our followers, we will explore the idea further with our school council and raise it with our governors.

So, what do you think? Should Willow Dene have a school dog?

Let your vote count by heading to Twitter, following @Willowdenesch and casting your vote!