Getting a School Dog

Six Factors to Consider

1. RIGHT REASONS
You know why you want a dog in your school and you’ve done your homework about what it involves.

 Ensure you understand the practical considerations of having a dog in school (eg toileting; hygiene standards; the need for a structured and planned timetable for your dog and his/her handler; space for the dog to rest for significant periods during the school day; areas of school that are unsuitable for a dog).

 You understand the costs associated with the dog and who will be responsible for them.

 Make appropriate insurance arrangements to cover your dog and its activities in school.

 Assess the risks and know what you will do if things do not go as planned.

 Have a back-up plan in place to care for the dog when he cannot attend school (eg if he/she is unwell).

2. RIGHT COMMITMENT/SUPPORT
You have support from governors, staff, parents and students to introduce a dog into your school.

 Engage all your stakeholders in your decision-making.

 Ensure you understand and manage any concerns up front (eg allergies; fears; cultural issues).

 Shape your plans based on the feedback you receive.

3. RIGHT PLACE
You have assessed that your school is an appropriate environment for a dog – and for the individual dog you select.

 Consider your school from a dog’s perspective: remember, it is not a natural home for a dog.

 Take advice and make an informed choice for the right dog for your school.

 Understand how you will need to adapt the school environment.

 Consider the hours the dog will be in school and where he/she will be based.

 Remember if your dog does not feel safe, your students will not be safe.

4. RIGHT TRAINING
You have a suitable socialisation and training programme to prepare the dog for school life.

 A dog is unlikely to be mature enough to work in a school environment until he/she is at least one year old and has completed all his/her training

 Don’t expect your dog to ‘get’ school life; you will need to prepare him/her. An effective socialisation process will help him/her to feel comfortable around children and introduce him/her gradually to the school environment.

 Get your dog assessed to ensure he has the right temperament and has reached the right levels of training to interact with students in school.

 Make sure you know where to get help.

5. RIGHT SUPPORT FOR YOUR DOG
You have a dedicated and experienced person who understands the dog’s needs who will support the dog at school and at home (while also understanding the needs of your students).

 Your dog will need a person to handle and support him/her in school. A dog should never be left alone with students.

 They will need a good understanding of dog behaviour and body language – and, specifically, to have built a trusted relationship with the dog,

 Do the appropriate checks through DBS and referencing to assure yourself that the person you select is suitable to work with children.

 Ensure they are committed to positive training techniques and to responding to the changing needs of your dog over time.

 They need to be confident to set standards in school and ensure everyone sticks to them – the dog’s wellbeing should never be compromised.

 They should not be distracted by other duties when handling the dog.

6. RIGHT PREPARATION
You have a clear plan and procedures to prepare your school for the introduction of a dog.

 Take time to educate students, teachers and other staff: to understand the dog’s needs; know how to act around, and engage with, the dog.

 Produce a timetable for the dog with clear rest periods away from students.

 Review how things are going regularly and make changes as required (e.g. Reduce dog’s time in school if there are signs of fatigue).

 Have a clear plan in place of what you will do if things do not go as planned.

Create a School Dog Policy

Here’s an example.

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