About the Therapy Dog Program
How the Team Will Be Used
- Ice Breaker/Rapport Building — Research shows that people with dogs are seen as more approachable. Using a dog in a school is a much more visible and accessible way for students to approach adults and other students more comfortably. Petting an animal and talking to it opens up opportunity for other conversation as well.
- Behavior Control — Baxter is so well behaved that students are able to use it as a model for good behavior. Opportunities to explain and educate the students on the behavior training and process he has gone through helps students understand discipline, practice and review as important for everyone-not just animals.
- Character Education — Respect, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, and Caring are just some of the traits that we strive for our students to understand and practice. Baxter will be used as an excellent tool of model behavior that allows the therapy dog to be in a public setting. He will have had to earn his certification that enables him to be at school. These qualities can be discussed numerous times with students showing them that if an animal can learn these traits, they certainly can.
- Reading Enhancement — Baxter may be used as a tool to be a reading partner with individual students or in small groups. Baxter listens unconditionally, never correcting or criticizing the material being read. This helps to build confidence in unsure readers. Having time with him will be a motivation to many students with reading difficulties.
- Reward for Good Behavior/Motivational Purposes — Teachers may contact Ms. Cullen in order to set up times for students to have time with Baxter for showing improvement in behavior or modeling positive behaviors and good character traits. The entire classroom may also have a visit from him for good behavior or classroom incentives.
- Tolerance — Dogs respond to everyone regardless of race, age, gender, looks, etc. This is pointed out to the students as an example of universal acceptance-a quality we should all strive to maintain.
- Hygiene — Baxter’s daily appearance (clean teeth, well groomed, clean,etc.) are easy topics to discuss and relate to a student’s own daily appearance. They enjoy how the dog looks and agree that it takes time and effort.
- Teaching about Feelings — Baxter has a very “visible” personality in that the students can tell when he is excited, happy, sad, anxious, etc. These are excellent opportunities for students to discuss their own feelings as well.
- Listening Skills — Through the working relationship of the handler and the therapy dog, the students learn the importance of the dog’s ability to respond and listen for her voice. They also learn that not all listening is “auditory.” Often, hand signals are used to get him to do something. Students also are able to share things with the dog that they may not normally open up to with just an adult present. They know he will be a good listener and never judge what is being said.
- Model Life-long Learning — Discussions with students about how Baxter was specifically trained, is a great introduction for studying career opportunities and examining what special training and education it would entail. The students are able to see how the dog is constantly using the skills he was trained to use and that he and Ms. Cullen have to continue to learn and use new skills in order to meet the needs of the school.
- Socialization Skills — When students have the opportunity in group situations to interact and play with Baxter, they learn how much fun it is to participate in a healthy activity and interact with another living thing appropriately and enthusiastically. The students will need to practice self-discipline and patience as they take their turn with the dog.
- Responsibility — While this is one of the character traits discussed earlier, the students will gain a better understanding of what a big responsibility it is to take care of another living creature. They become observant of his feelings, attitude, physical appearance, and needs. (Water, food, going outside, exercise, etc.)
This program is implemented by and through the cooperation of the entire staff and faculty of Regency Place Elementary. Ms. Cullen is responsible for helping to train the staff and students about the needs of the therapy dog as well as the expectations in dealing with him. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Ms. Cullen at:
Jennifer Cullen & Baxter, Certified Professional Therapy Dog Team
Regency Place Elementary, 13250 S Greenwood, Olathe, KS 66062