Mutt-i-grees School Dog Impact
If you don’t happen to be one of the lucky ones to have a dog at your school, the goal of this blog is to share with you all of the benefits as to why your next great hire might be a rescue dog! If you do have a pet partner at your school, I’m sure that you and your new four-legged staff member have settled in and have amazing stories to tell. At a recent meeting a Principal said, “When our teachers get together to discuss all of the challenges the students face these days, we wish we had a magic wand. Well, we now have that wand – our Mutt-i-grees School Dog.”
The benefits to reap are many, not only for the children, but the staff and of course your adopted pet partner.
The Mutt-i-grees School Dog Program will provide staff enrichment. The presence of a dog is a therapeutic, calming force providing stress and anxiety relief. When simply talking about a beloved dog, oxytocin is increased and blood pressure decreased making the individual more present, more patient, hence more productive. This makes for a more conducive school environment for quality learning, growth, and social connections.
The program will enhance learning, compassion, pro-social behavior, and communication not only for the students, but the entire school community. The presence of a dog creates an atmosphere of joy, support, engagement, and pride. Dogs encourage responsibility and leadership.
The presence of the dog in conjunction with the Mutt-i-grees lessons is another tool for educators to dovetail core values of empathy, compassion, and respect into core curricula. The dog assists the educator’s job in a turn-key fashion while changing the entire school climate into a more positive one.
With the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum wrapped around the dog’s presence, it becomes more than a mere one-time “feel good moment” and becomes a pathway to teach lifelong critical skills. This experiential component combined with social emotional learning (SEL) makes children begin to critically think and become problem solvers. This is also a platform to integrate humane curricula – teaching to the whole child across all subjects.
Dogs have the ability to uncover student emotions without exposing a student. For example, if a student is withdrawn, shut down or acting out, the educator can say, “When a dog feels a certain way, they may withdraw, avoid people, or bark and sound upset. What can you do to help?”
For counseling purposes, a child will open up in the presence of a dog when they won’t one-on-one with an adult. Often times the trust has been broken with an adult or they’ve been judged. The dog is always there—it is non-judgmental, loving, attentive, and makes eye contact. The dog’s presence elevates learning, goes beyond the surface, and steps closer to the human condition – to have empathy for suffering, and to celebrate one’s potential.
Children have a natural affinity with the dog; both are vulnerable to kindness and suffering. This relationship opens a window for educators to enter and reach their students in a new way, in a results-oriented condensed, time frame.
When the heart is open, you can reach the mind.
The Student & The Dog
- Breaks Stereotypes
- Journey of the Rescue Dog Resonates
When the students are exposed to live dogs in the classroom or in a one-on-one setting, there is positive transformation and growth development. There is a new excitement and interest in school. The dog engages the child’s natural curiosity. Students learn respect and kindness and how to modulate their emotions and their physicality. They experience that their actions and their perceptions have an impact on another living creature – this is cross-species integration.
When students are overwhelmed or in crisis, they can’t manage their emotions and learning becomes impossible. The dog brings stress levels down, so they’re no longer merely reacting, but responding. They’re able to open up and be redirected. The dog brings a student outside of himself and outside of the spiral of always being mindful and present.
Attentive: the student must pay attention, listen to instructions, and repeat directions before assisting with the dog.
Start to Finish: the student learns that the dog has a routine that must be planned and completed for his well-being, and the student participates for organization success.
Making Adjustments: the child learns to become calm and quiet and immediately can see how the dog responds. If the child is too hyperactive, he sees the consequences and impact of his behavior on the dog’s behavior.
Positive Actions: the child is motivated to try the activity and recognizes intuitively that there are risks.
Patience: patient teaching from the child to the dog transitions role from student to teacher, as it develops perspective, guidance, and acceptance.
Transition: change and the unknown can cause anxiety. The dog takes the focus off transitioning and eases the movement from one activity to another.
Focus: Even with easily distracted students, the dog helps them learn to stay focused and on task.
Emotional Stability: the calm presence of the dog can stabilize the student’s emotional state.
It doesn’t matter where the students come from or what your circumstances are, the dog is a conduit for connection. When a discussion is opened about dogs, inevitably it comes around to the students speaking about themselves. The dog provides a calm, safe atmosphere that levels the playing field and allows students to feel comfortable sharing. The focus shifts from themselves and gives them an opportunity to listen to one another, but also be heard.
The Dog Is:
- An enhancement for all school curricula.
- A motivator and builder of responsibility.
- A community catalyst for social interaction.
Dogs as Role Models
- Social and interested in others
- Pure and uncomplicated with their emotions
- Connected to nature
- Living in the moment
- Not involved in self-pity
- Not naturally neurotic!
Gradually, the students are able to be successful at helping care for a rescued animal. Students are surprised when they experience how the dog accepts them, is glad to see them, and doesn’t care about any challenges they may have. Students are happy, empowered, feel important, relax and sometimes, for the first time, they’re feeling successful at something.
They transfer these feelings and positive experiences to better school performance, better peer relationships, and greater mastery over their behavior in social situations. The vulnerable dog helps them to control themselves and start thinking about how others are impacted by their emotions. The dog allows the students to understand the impact of their every move. This hones valuable life skills that can be used in other challenging situations through life.
The goal is for the students is to understand who they are. To learn how to channel their energy, focus, and determination, so they can reach their full potential. The classroom then becomes a training ground for responsible relationships. Caring for a pet is having a relationship with another being and requires skills all children can benefit from cultivating. It offers the chance to care for another being who is completely dependent.
Exposure to an authentic relationship with another being who can’t speak, but is wholly dependent on you for survival, requires attention, interaction, and a sense of obligation to another. It requires trust, loyalty and respect, which is the basis for any healthy relationship.
Caring for a dog becomes a platform to teach and set up systems, tweak them and reestablish them as needed.
The Mutt-i-grees Program breaks down the stereotype of what the working dog typically looks like. We are putting high value on shelter pets – rescue pets. They have been rescued, and now are helping to rescue us. The children take this journey with the dogs, and experience their resiliency, their value – developing empathy while learning that every living being deserves a second chance.
The program provides enrichment and stimulation for dogs that might otherwise be at home alone, and some even crated. These school dogs are a loving family member by night, and teacher’s pet by day!
This also becomes a non-traditional platform for increased shelter adoptions not only by the school educators, but by the families of students as well. Learning to connect with animals helps all of us connect with the best part of ourselves, the healthy part.
The program raises awareness for adopting a shelter pet. It mentions how when you choose adoption you are saving not one life, but two: the dog that’s been adopted into a loving home and the space that opens for another one to be rescued. When the students realize they are an integral part of saving a life – it’s powerful!