St. Xavier High School, a private all boys school in Cincinnati, has welcomed atherapy dog to help students deal with stress. Evan, a 2-year-old golden retriever will be pacing the halls during the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year. “Seeing him in the hallway brings a smile to our faces and something to look forward to during the school day,” said senior Daniel Baptist. Should all schools have a therapy dog?
The school said they want to support the health and wellness of faculty and students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression and anxiety in children ages 6-17 has increased. Therapy dogs are are proven to reduce anxiety and stress and improve self-esteem.
If a student needs time with Evan, a trainer says, “Can you visit?” and the canine stays with the student who may need a moment of zen. “Evan gives adults and students just the chance to be away from their job. For students, this is a serious job. They’re working hard to accomplish things and Evan gives them a little respite when they see him and light up immediately,” said Athers.
This is a pilot program in partnership with the Hamilton County Education Service Center and Circle Tail, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide service and hearing dogs to people with disabilities. School officials will have conversations at the end of this semester about how things went and the best way to move forward. The family of a student is acting as a host family for Evan when he isn’t working at school.
Evan has gone through extensive training to be a therapy dog and will be at the school all semester. The school will decide at the end of the school year if Evan will be back next year. He was chosen in part because, according to Circle Tail, “He is so focused on going where there is someone in need! He has a crazy sixth sense and is incredible in his empathy for those in need. He seems to absorb what is needed from each person he interacts with!”
Benefits of therapy dogs at school is an increase in school attendance, gains in confidence, decreases in learner anxiety behaviours resulting in improved learning outcomes, such as increases in reading and writing levels. Therapy dogs in school can help students focus on things outside of their own emotional struggles. Interacting with a therapy dog can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.
Therapy dogs not only have a positive effect on emotional well-being, they have an influence on cognitive development. The abilities of therapy dogs never seem to fail to surprise. From helping students with disabilities to being called upon to act as first responders in a tragedy. Therapy dogs have moved from a want to a need.