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TWO new students have joined Rudyard Kipling Primary and Nursery School – but they are smaller and fluffier than average.
Brothers Hugo and Buddy are five-month-old puppies who have just joined the school as therapy dogs.
They have been chosen because of their breed– they are “cavapoochons”, mum is a cavachon (cavalier King Charles spaniel crossed with a bichon frise) and dad is a toy red poodle.
This means not only are they are really good with children but they don’t shed hair.
Children can have their “golden time” with Hugo or Buddy, where they spend time with one of them and enjoy a walk with them around the garden of the school in Woodingdean.
And the pupils like the dogs so much they have written projects about them, including the Barking Newspaper, with a special feature on Buddy.
Sarah Kirby, the deputy Headteacher, had the idea of taking puppies in to help the children.
She said: “It’s amazing how dogs can calm children. Sometimes all it takes is some time with Hugo or Buddy to make them feel better.”
And for the pupils, the pair are a really welcome addition to the classroom.
Jared Dempsey, nine, said: “I like playing with the puppies. Hugo’s lead always gets stuck in his paw and so I have to help him.”
The teachers said when a child gets fidgety or upset, talking to them sometimes does not work – but time spent petting or playing with the puppies will immediately makes them feel better.
Ms Kirby added: “We first started the project when I was working with a little boy who wasn’t able to be in the classroom because of emotional and other difficulties and I brought my other dog in to work with him and it really calmed him down.
“So we started to think about having two dogs at school that we could use for emotional support for children but also for reading.
“If they were not very confident in reading they could read to the dogs because it’s less scary.”
One of the pups lives with Ms Kirby and the other with James Lewin, the school business manager.
He said: “I think it’s a nice creative way to make the curriculum more accessible to all children and I think that’s what we really want with the dogs.”
THERAPY DOGS OVER THE YEARS
Animal-assisted therapy can be traced back as far as 1792 at the Quaker Society of Friends’ retreat in York, which was set up as an alternative to the poor treatment of those seeking mental health help.
Sources claim Florence Nightingale appreciated the benefits of pets in the treatment of sick individuals.
In 1919, the US military promoted the use of dogs as a therapeutic intervention with psychiatric patients at St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington DC in 1919.
In recent years, therapy dogs have been used more widely for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Increased recognition of the value of human-pet bonding was noted by Dr Boris Levinson in 1961, when he discovered that he could reach an “extremely withdrawn” and disturbed child during therapy sessions when his dog, Jingles, was present.
US nurse Elaine Smith started a programme for dogs to visit medical institutions in 1976; UK charity Pets as Therapy soon followed in 1983.
Dogs are now also taken in to schools and universities to relieve anxiety among students.
Source: The Argus